A multi-year story and how it has been reported in The Citizen

Image by Leticia Luna, Managing Editor

October 19, 2021

By David Rowe, Associate Editor

Over the 20 year history of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office (ASCO) providing security services for the Peralta Community College District (PCCD), there were many calls for change but it took the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police on May 20, 2020 to motivate the board of trustees to finally end the arrangement.  

Just a month after Floyd’s killing, the board voted to end its long-standing security arrangement with ASCO and began the process of seeking alternative, unarmed “community based” security firms to provide protection for its four colleges and administrative offices. 

That process is still unfolding with a new Peralta Director of Safety expected to be appointed shortly and a new request for proposal (RFP) being prepared for distribution to potential security/safety vendors.  

Over the past 17 months, The Citizen has covered developments in this story through the publication of multiple articles. Our coverage has been picked up by major local news outlets including KTVU-TV and The San Francisco Chronicle and was recognized by the Society of Professional Journalists. It has also received strong criticism, most recently from an official for one of the security firms that did not get their contract approved from the district. 

This article provides a retrospective on the evolving Peralta security story and how The Citizen has covered it. 

Decision to end ACSO contract

The Peralta Community College District (PCCD) board of trustees meeting on June 9, 2020 was more highly charged than usual. The PCCD’s long-standing contract with ASCO was coming up for renewal and the board was being pressured to consider alternatives. As reported in The Citizen on June 22, “eight speakers appeared at the…meeting to urge the board to end Peralta’s contract with ACSO.”  That article also reported that a “group composed of faculty, staff, and students called #BlackMindsMatter at Peralta circulated a petition demanding that the board of trustees terminate the district’s $4.1 million contract with ACSO.”  The petition generated 1,357 signatures, according to the article. 

Black Minds Matter, an organization formed by Laney psychology professor Kimberly King and others, played a crucial role throughout this process as reported in The Citizen on December 14, 2020. This organization drafted an Action Plan for Holistic Safety and Wellness that has been used as a blueprint by the district in its security and safety planning. 

The district considered “hybrid” security models that combined traditional law enforcement with a more community-based approach but ultimately decided to terminate the ASCO contract completely effective on December 31, 2020.

Prior to its engagement with ASCO, Peralta had its own campus police force but decided to disband it when Officer Herbert Stovall was killed at Laney college in a struggle with a burglary suspect in 1995. 

Search for alternative security vendors

Leigh Sata, former Vice Chancellor of General Services for PCCD, began issuing RFPs for community-based unarmed security firms shortly after the board meeting in June 2020. It was subsequently reissued with a due date of August 26, 2020.  Three vendors were selected based on the proposals they submitted: Community Ready Corps (CRC), Zulu Community Protection, and Marina Security Services.  The plan was to have CRC provide protective services for Laney College while Zulu would cover Merritt and College of Alameda.  Marina’s role was more limited: to provide dispatch services and protection for the district offices. Security at Berkeley City College (BCC) would continue to be provided by A1 Protective Services, the incumbent vendor that was already under contract. All four of the security firms are minority or woman-owned, according to their websites. 

For full infographic with story links, click here.

^^Infographic by Ivan Chairez, Photo Editor^^

Absence of required licenses

Security firms operating in California, even those that are unarmed, are required to hold a private patrol operator (PPO) license, according to the California Bureau of Security and Investigative Services (BSIS).  Using the license search feature on the BSIS site, The Citizen discovered that while two of the proposed security vendors (Marina and A1) held these licenses, the other two (CRC and Zulu) apparently did not. This finding was reported in a December 14, 2020 article entitled “a closer look at the new Peralta security vendors.”  

That same article revealed that the local business address provided by CRC was a vacant storefront on International Boulevard in Oakland with a “for lease” sign on the front door.  The address provided by Zulu was a residence in Oakland where police had conducted a pre-dawn raid on July 23, 2016. Marina and A1 both provided business addresses in San Francisco office buildings. 

Tur-Ha Ak, a CRC spokesperson, said in a Facebook video posted on October 4, 2021 that his company was, in fact, doing business at the International Boulevard address. Ak also characterized security coverage in The Citizen as “police propaganda”.

Despite questions raised about the licenses, the board of trustees voted to approve the security contracts at a special meeting on December 14, 2020.  As reported in The Citizen, the total cost of the three contracts was $6.2 million, or $2.1 million more that the district had been paying ACSO. 

This is the point where the story attracted attention from the local mainstream media with coverage on KTVU and in Phil Matier’s column in the San Francisco Chronicle.

District reverses course

Just as the contract with ACSO expired on December 31, 2020, the district decided to shift assignments for the community-based security firms.  As reported in The Citizen on January 5, 2021, increased responsibilities were awarded to Marina Security Services, which would take over the security responsibilities for Laney, Merrit, and College of Alameda in addition to its original dispatching responsibilities. District spokesperson, Mark Johnson, emphasized at the time that this was an “interim arrangement” while vetting was completed for CRC and Zulu. A1 would continue its role at BCC. 

On January 7, Johnson revealed that the district hired an outside security consultant, Knowledge Saves Lives (KSL), to review the “qualifications, experience, regulatory compliance (and) structure” for CRC and Zulu. KSL would ultimately play a larger role with the district and its president and CEO, Paul Llanez, would become the acting Director of Safety.

On May 7, 2021, Interim Chancellor Jannett Jackson acknowledged that CRC and Zulu did not hold the required licenses to be security vendors for Peralta. As a result Marina and A1 would be the exclusive security vendors for the district. Jackson also suggested a new RFP would be issued for security/safety vendors. 

Then there was one

On July 30, 2021, Interim Vice Chancellor Atheria Smith announced that the district decided to work exclusively with Marina.  She described the move as part of PCCD’s continued work towards operationalizing a holistic model for campus public safety.”  The change took effect on August 11.  Llanez, in an exclusive interview with The Citizen, emphasized the advantages of working with a single vendor in terms of Clery Act reporting.  As reported in The Citizen, A1 Protective Services was not happy about the decision and threatened to file a suit against the district. 

Moving forward

According to Johnson, the district is close to hiring a new Director of Safety.  Once this person is on board and brought up to speed by Llanez, the new RFP for security/safety vendors will be issued. The Citizen will continue to cover any new developments in the story.