Ten new armed security personnel members are joining the Rancho Santiago Community College District by the end of this semester, more than doubling the current district-wide armed officer count.
Currently, the district employs seven safety managers, two sergeants and one lieutenant at Santa Ana College and Santiago Canyon College, with Toni Bland as the Interim Chief of District Safety and Security.
In 2016, Bland said she placed an additional six officers through strict training and psychological tests. These six officers meet the criteria to carry a firearm and were slated for approval this month.
“All officers have gone through rigorous hiring and training processes,” Bland said.
To improve campus safety, SAC security personnel are using new radios district-wide, on-campus emergency towers and the LiveSafe mobile application, which can send safety tips, emergency alerts and immediate direct calls and messages to security officers.
“It’s important we are working diligently. Generally, we have low crime [rates] and the statistics’ annual sources prove this,” Bland said. “We want to make sure that everyone can get a text alert and be able to download the LiveSafe app.”
According to District Chancellor Raul Rodriguez’ official update, the district also anticipates hiring an additional four new armed safety staff in the near future alongside the six officers hired by Bland.
In 2014, former Santa Ana Police Chief Paul Walters recommended the district hire armed officers, suggesting to the board of trustees that they add two on each campus. In 2015, the board approved moving forward with a plan to arm security officers, reversing a 25-year policy that prevented guns on campus.
Students and faculty have mixed reactions towards the increase of firearms on campus.
“I feel safer, because if anything were to happen, there would be armed officers at school and they would know what to do,” said SAC student Suzette Palacios.
“I’m sure many students worry about their safety, and I don’t think the numbers really matter as long as there’s someone willing to protect other students.”
“For me, it’s complicated. I’m not opposed to having armed officers on campus, but I am glad that they have in-depth training. I wish I didn’t have to think about these things. I didn’t realize that it was going to be part of my job description,” said Women in U.S. History professor Megan Lange.
The college is also installing emergency magnetic lock strips, which are attached to the sides of classroom doors. With the doors locked from the outside, the strip may be placed over the door latch hole to allow students and faculty to enter the room. In the event an intruder is on-campus, people can slide the strip off the door lock, preventing intruders from infiltrating classrooms.
For the Summer 2018 term, SAC security plans to equip 80 percent of classrooms with the magnetic strips. There is a list of all classrooms that require an alternative or thumb-turn locking mechanism.
“Hearing about all of this mass shooting makes me feel unsure about my career choice in becoming a teacher. I have to stop and think, ‘do I really want to lose my life?’” said SAC Early Childhood Education Major Erica Saldivar.