Members of the Matador Patrol are not required to undergo criminal background checks, fingerprinting or drug tests because there isn’t enough of a risk to necessitate them, said Chief of Campus Police Anne Glavin.
Applicants to the program, whose main responsibility is to escort students who are by themselves at night from class to their car or dorm, do have to go through tests and reference checks by the police leader of the program, Captain Scott Vanscoy. Glavin said since there is no history of criminal misbehavior in the program and students who have access to neither money nor master keys, criminal background checks are unnecessary.
“Given the history and the track record of the community service officer program here, ? I don’t think we need to go into big in-depth criminal background checks,” Glavin said. “I doubt that there’s any place on campus that they go into major depth on background checks.”
Christina Villalobos, a community relations officer, said the tests the police do for the Matador Patrol are probably more in-depth than what other departments do when hiring students who could have jobs that give them access to money or confidential records.
“There’s other types of student jobs on campus that are sensitive positions,” she said. “But ? what we do is probably more than what they do.”
Other CSUs have similar programs. Many, like Humboldt State University’s, include other responsibilities as well, including parking services, said Stephen Sullivan, the parking manager for HSU. Sullivan said since their officers’ main responsibilities are parking services and they have access to master keys, they check their driver’s license, criminal history, do a drug test, and have an investigator from the department check their references.
“30 to 50 percent wash out because of a background issue,” he said.
Lieutenant Eric Reichel, the acting chief of campus police at California State Chico, said their background check, which uses the Live Scan service, which is also available to the CSUN campus police, doesn’t usually stop too many people because of a thorough prescreening process, but they still do it anyway.
“We don’t want someone working in the police station who shouldn’t be,” he said.
Vanscoy said student advisers and coordinators, whose jobs are roughly equivalent to those of supervisors and managers, do go through fingerprinting because they handle payroll, personal information and personnel files. There are currently 36 members of the Matador Patrol, 10 to 12 of whom are advisers or supervisors.
Villalobos said in 2005 almost 9,000 students used the services of the Matador Patrol, and 423 of these cases involved students calling the Matador Patrol asking for an escort. The remaining 8,565 were from members of the Matador Patrol asking someone if they wanted an escort.
The Matador Patrol also patrols the dorms from about 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. Thursday through Saturday nights, making sure the only people who come in are residents or guests of residents.
“They’re basically a door monitor,” Glavin said.
They are strictly forbidden from doing “anything that would put them in a security, confrontational, or quasi-police role,” she said.
About five years ago, the Community Service Officers, as they were called then, had a very different job, Vanscoy said. They often carried moneybags for businesses on campus and had much more of a security role, including having possession of master keys, he said. Even their uniforms were much closer to that of police officers, Glavin said, so much so that they were often mistaken for police officers. At that time they did do more in-depth background checks, Glavin said.
“If you’re dealing with money, payroll, personal information, you have got to do more thorough checks,” Vanscoy said. “You’re looking for potential of identity theft, you’re looking for potential of theft in general. You really have to know who your employees are because they have a lot more responsibity.” But since then, Glavin has changed the direction of the CSOs and turned them into the Matador Patrol, changing their primary role from security to escorts, giving them a “friendlier overtone.” Their previous role, which could include confrontational situations, wasn’t really appropriate for students, Glavin said.
“I don’t think that’s the kind of role we want students in (for) a job in our department,” she said.
Glavin said while there are occasional behavioral problems, these are usually the same as anywhere else a student might work. She said that since doing background checks is not a guarantee that a student will not assault another student and such background checks are expensive, doing them wouldn’t make sense.
“If there’s a reason to do it where there’s a high risk then it makes sense to do it, but just to do it to say we did it, to me, has no merit,” she said.
Even if money wasn’t an issue they probably still would not do background checks, Glavin said. While the fact that nothing has happened doesn’t mean nothing will happen, she said, doing background checks wouldn’t make a difference.
“Just looking at this very technically, from a risk assessment standpoint, it really doesn’t change anything because I think the checks we do are fine,” she said.
Vanscoy said after the first round of tests, students are conditionally hired pending their reference checks. Vanscoy, who does the reference checks personally, said they talk to applicants’ parents, previous employers, and anything else included as references on their application. He said most companies will only confirm the time when they worked there, but he can tell when they like the applicant or not. When it seems like someone doesn’t like the applicant, Vanscoy said he will often go to them in uniform and ask them personally for a little more information.
“Typically what we usually say is, ‘Hey, they’ll be working for a police department entity providing public safety services, so could you give me a little more? Would you want this person serving you if you had to go (to) them for help?,’ and 99 percent of the time they talk to me,” he said.
Checking on students doesn’t end the day they are hired, though, Vanscoy said. One of his favorite parts of his job is developing students’ work ethic and building a closer relationship with them. He said he hears when they get tickets or get in other kinds of trouble and calls them in to talk.
“To me, that’s monitoring, that’s trying to keep them on the right track,” he said. “It has nothing to do with (the) campus, and it’s not a crime, but it’s something. As an adult, you grow up, you see these things, and maybe something I think back to an experience when I was in college and I don’t want to see them go through.”
Glavin said since many of the students applying to be in Matador Patrol want to eventually become police officers and because they’re applying to do that type of work, they’re unlikely to have criminal records.
“I think our risk assessment is a good assessment,” she said. “Now, having said that, if at any time that changes, and we think we have to be more selective or have tougher screening for members of Matador Patrol, then I wouldn’t hesitate to do that.
“The checks we do are reasonable for the services we perform in this environment at this point in time,” she said. “Might that change? Yes, but not right now.”
If, by chance, a member of the Matador Patrol did do something illegal, they would be treated just like any other student, Glavin said. There would be people who would want to make an issue out of the fact it was a member of the Matador Patrol, but Glavin said that someone in the dorms assaulting a roommate or a student in class assaulting a teacher was just as likely as a member of the Matador Patrol assaulting their charge.
“The fact of the matter is it’s really no different from any other student on campus,” Glavin said.
Patricia Tolar, an assistant to the chief o
f campus police at San Francisco State University, said they use fingerprinting for background checks to be extra safe.
“We like to promote it so people feel even more safe because they’re walking with a stranger,” she said. “It’s just good policy.”