By Dylan Head
As communal relations with police continue to deteriorate nationwide, all eyes are on Cuestaâ€™s newly appointed police chief as he seeks to build upon the dynamic his department has with students.
â€œMy goal is to make sure students know we are accessable,â€ said Police Chief Bryan Millard, who came to Cuesta from the Morro Bay Police Department where he worked for 15 years and reached the rank of commander.
The new chiefâ€™s appointment comes at a time when important department decisions must be made, from hiring and training new officers to accommodate Cuestaâ€™s expansion, to utilizing technological advancements to benefit both students and officers.
The 42 year-old police chief also has a personal connection to Cuesta; Millardâ€™s wife of 21 years is a nursing instructor on campus.
Although most of his time was spent as a cop patrolling the streets, Millardâ€™s own experience in law enforcement started on a college campus.
While studying at the University of California at Santa Barbara, Millard enrolled as a campus safety officer and was hooked. It was this experience in college policing that allowed him to understand the needs of students on a campus, he said.
â€œWhen I was going to school, I didn’t think about policing on campus,â€ Millard said. â€œI donâ€™t want [Cuesta students] to have to either.â€
One of Millardâ€™s goals for the department is to start using technology that will assist both students and officers. His plans include implementing an alert system and smartphone app that would put students a button-press away from assistance while on campus.
â€œI would like to leverage technology to our advantage,â€ Millard said. â€œI would love to get to the point where students would have one button access to us.â€
Millard may soon have to deal with hiring new officers to accommodate Cuestaâ€™s expansion, which is funded by bond measures. He was quick to address that hiring the right officers for the job is paramount to the goals of the department.
â€œCampus policing is a very specific type of law enforcement,â€ Millard explained. â€œWe need to have officers that understand a studentâ€™s needs.â€
Proactive policing is the crux of Millard’s law enforcement philosophy on campus. Officers at Cuesta must be motivated to seek out problems, he said, and operate with the integrity that both the students and he expect from them.
In order to instill these principles into the next generation of officers, Millard works with the same program that gave him his start in law enforcement. Millardâ€™s program, the campus peace officer program, is offered here at Cuesta College and employs seven students each semester. Â
In the light of so many campus shootings occurring in the past year, Millard and the Cuesta police department are taking active shooter training very seriously.
Millard and his officers train faculty for such an event regularly, with the last training session being in August. Cuesta PD also works with several other agencies around the county to ensure that their officers are up to date on the latest tactics.
â€œWe consider it to be a top safety priority,â€ said Millard.
The department is also working on a standardized mapping system that gives any responding emergency personnel a detailed map of Cuesta’s classrooms.
As the semester unfolds, Millard hopes to maintain, and even build upon, the relationship that campus police have established with students.
â€œMy goal is to make sure students know we are accessable,â€ said Millard.
He maintains that, from rescuing dogs in hot cars, to pulling escaped inmates out of porta-potties, campus police will stay available to all student needs.