January 11, 2021

By David Rowe, Associate Editor

In a January 7 update to the Peralta community, Executive Director of the Department of Marketing, Communication & Public Relations Mark Johnson, revealed that the district hired Merced-based consulting firm Knowledge Saves Lives (KSL) to review the “qualifications, experience, regulatory compliance (and) structure” for two community-based security firms under consideration for the new safety and security plan. 

The firms being reviewed are Community Ready Corps (CRC) and Zulu Community Protection (ZCP). As previously reported, questions have been raised about whether these vendors hold the private patrol operator (PPO) licenses required by the state of California for firms providing security guard services. 

In his update, Johnson stated the district is continuing to work with these vendors “to meet the district’s requirements and prepare them for the onboarding process.”

The Citizen spoke with Paul Llanez, the president and CEO of KSL, on January 8. Prior to founding KSL in 2010, Llanez was a police officer with the city of Los Banos. He also ran for mayor of Los Banos last November, narrowly losing to his opponent.  

Llanez indicated the contract with Peralta had not yet been finalized but his company is “ready to start tomorrow” once it is approved. When asked about the nature of the consulting assignment, Llanez said his firm is focused on developing policies rather than evaluating specific vendors. “Our purpose…is to create district policies regarding those vendors,” he explained.  

“We set up the rules and regulations of what’s expected of those vendors.” 

In addition to consulting on policies, KSL offers a variety of training services. Two years ago, KSL conducted “active threat training” at Merritt College, according to Llanez, which is how his company established a connection with the Peralta district.

KSL is currently working with school districts on implementation of a new state law that goes into effect on July 1. Known as SB 390, it requires even part time security guards working in education to complete a training course from the Bureau of Security and Investigative Services (BSIS). Currently that training is only required for security guards working more than 20 hours per week.

When asked about the typical duration of his consulting engagements, Llanez said they range from 18 months to just three weeks. 

While the KSL contract is finalized and its analysis is conducted, Johnson confirmed that security services for the Peralta colleges are being provided by A1 Protective Services and Marina Security Services. The district’s contract with the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO) ended on December 31.

In brief comments to the Peralta board of trustees on January 5, Interim Chancellor Carla Walter thanked the ACSO for “what they’ve done for our district over the course of history.” Walter also reported that “we are on track to implement the safety plan” without providing any details on the status of the specific vendors. She characterized the shift to community-based security as “a milestone for our district.”

According to Johnson, acting Vice Chancellor Atheria Smith will “visit shared governance, campus-based standing meetings, and other committee meetings to provide additional updates, answer questions, and continue the shared governance processes of improving the District’s re-imagined safety plans and program” over the coming weeks. 

KSL is the second consultant the district has hired as part of this project. As reported in The Citizen on June 22, “the board approved a $31,500 contract with Anthony Finnell, a former police sergeant to develop alternative security models for Peralta.” Finnell also served as interim executive director of the Oakland Community Police Review Agency in 2018 along with former Peralta Trustee Meredith Brown, who was the agency’s legal counsel.  

Finnell delivered his report to the board on June 17, calling for a hybrid model that retained some services from ACSO but supplemented them with a community-based approach.  

The district is also still moving forward with the hiring of a Director of Public Safety who will be responsible for managing the four outside security firms. The first meeting of the hiring committee for this position was scheduled for January 11.