No agreements yet with local police departments after seven months of “discussions”

March 23, 2022

By David Rowe, Associate Editor

Seven months after Peralta Community College District (PCCD) officials declared Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) with local law enforcement as a top-priority component of PCCD’s new safety plan, officials from local law enforcement agencies suggest that the district might not be as far along in securing the MOUs as they have touted.

When The Citizen interviewed Paul Llanez, Peralta’s then interim Director of Safety, in August of last year, he identified the negotiation of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Oakland Police Department (OPD) as a top priority. Llanez explained that an MOU “spells out the policies and procedures” between the district and the local police departments and “identifies the types of incidents” for which the local police will be called.  

The office of the California Attorney General provides an MOU template on its website for use by state colleges and universities. The template notes that MOUs are subject to “numerous state and federal laws” relating to the “reporting, investigation, and appropriate response” to crimes, including sexual assault. 

Trustee Bill Withrow at the February 22 Board of Trustees meeting. Source Peralta Colleges YouTube Channel

Interim Chancellor Jannette Jackson, in response to a question from Trustee Bill Withrow at the February 22 Board of Trustees meeting, said the district was “very close” to finalizing MOUs with the OPD in addition to the police departments of Alameda and Berkeley. 

Jackson mentioned recent meetings with the local police departments where Tim Thomas, Peralta’s new Director of Safety, was introduced. She characterized the local police departments as “extremely supportive” and said they may even be interested in having Peralta provide training for their officers on restorative justice and de-escalation techniques. Thomas provided training for supervisors assigned by Marina Security Services to patrol the Peralta campuses and district office, according to a presentation he made at the same board meeting.   

Interim Chancellor Jannette Jackson at February 22 Board of Trustees meeting. Source Peralta Colleges YouTube Channel

Mark Johnson, Executive Director of Marketing, Communications, and Public Relations for the Peralta district, provided some further details on the status of MOU negotiations with the local police departments in a March 15 email to The Citizen

According to Johnson, Thomas met with Chief LeRonne L. Armstrong and Deputy Chief Darren Allison from OPD on January 10, and Chief Nishant Joshi and Field Services Captain Jeff Emmitt of the Alameda Police Department on February 7.  

Thomas is still “waiting to hear back from the Berkeley Police Department on when that meeting can be arranged.”

When asked by The Citizen about the delay in scheduling a meeting with Thomas, Berkeley Police Officer Byron White sent the following statement via email: “The Department is in the midst of a number (of) important discussions, work, and changes surrounding public safety.  With the remaining staff resources available to us, the Department must prioritize the work in order of immediacy. While an official MOU has not yet been discussed with the Peralta School District, Berkeley City College is located within the City of Berkeley and the City of Berkeley Police Department will continue to respond to the location when called.”

Tim Thomas, Peralta’s Director of Safety at the February 22 Board of Trustees meeting. Source Peralta Colleges YouTube Channel

Kim Armstead, Public Information Officer for the OPD, initially responded to an email inquiry from The Citizen by stating “the Oakland Police Department is not in negotiations with the Peralta Community College District.”  In a subsequent response, Armstead confirmed “OPD had a conversation with the Perlata District regarding safety concerns and offered ideas and available resources to assist, however, there has been no conversation about an MOU.”  

Armstead further explained that “an MOU would only be signed if direct services were being provided” and that the OPD “does not have available resources to provide dedicated support without a financial arrangement.” 

In terms of the cost of such an arrangement, Armstead said it “is dependent on the number of officers provided.” 

Florence Lopez, Assistant to Alameda Police Chief Joshi, informed The Citizen that her department and PCCD have “not met or spoken” since the meeting on February 7.  She indicated the Alameda Police Department and PCCD have a standing MOU which has been in place since 2018 when the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office provided protective services for the district. 

While day-to-day security at the Peralta campuses and district office is currently provided by unarmed Marina security guards, local police departments may be called in emergency situations, according to Jackson. Having an MOU in place enables the local police departments to “know what our campuses look like” and to be familiar with key administration officials, according to Jackson. “So if we do call for help and we say…’we’re in building E,’ they know where building E is on the campus.” 

Trustee Nicky Gonzalez Yuen at the February 22 Board of Trustees meeting. Source Peralta Colleges YouTube Channel

Trustee Nicky Gonzalez Yuen provided an example of a kind of “emergency situation” at the February 22 board meeting, describing a recent incident at the Laney campus where a “bloodied” individual was found by an instructor who called Marina Security. Marina, in turn, called 911. As a result, it took a “long time” for the victim to receive assistance, according to Yuen.  

Another incident requiring outside police support took place on the afternoon of March 14. A man with a firearm was pursued by BART Police from the Lake Merritt station to the Laney campus, where he was apprehended, according to James Allison, the BART media relations manager. In an email to The Citizen, Allison said the firearm “was actually a plastic projectile gun” and the suspect was “placed on a psychiatric hold.”  

Laney College President Rudy Besikof explained in a March 11 email to the campus community that there has also been a recent “rash of catalytic converter thefts from vehicles” parked in the Laney parking lots.

Just a day before Besikof’s announcement, Cheryl Lew, Culinary Arts instructor at Laney, said her Honda CRV was stolen from the parking lot and later recovered in Pinole by local police, who apprehended the thieves “in the process” of stripping the vehicle. 

Llanez, who left the Peralta district in January of this year when his contract expired, explained in a March 2 email to The Citizen that “the MOU process from the district negotiations side was completed back in October before I left. That process was turned over to the city attorney’s office as well as legal counsel for the district.”  

When asked about the typical timeframe for negotiating such agreements, Llanez wrote, “in my experience, the entire process can take three months to up to a year.”

The Citizen asked Johnson what became of the work Llanez did on this project but has not received a response. Johnson did say Thomas “is reviewing it (a proposed MOU) with Chancellor Jackson this week or next.”