Making a safer campus; Los Rios Police work to improve campus security

The Los Rios Police Department patrols City College Feb. 1 | Photo by Anastasia Jones | Staff Reporter |

Anastasia Jones
Staff Reporter

American River College was locked down when a witness reported a man with a gun on campus.

The witness said they saw the man tuck a gun into his waistband and ride off on a bicycle. Law enforcement searched the area but the suspect was not found. The campus reopened Thursday morning, according to the Los Rios Police Department.

Sacramento County Sheriff’s Spokesperson Sgt. Shaun Hampton told the Sacramento Bee the incident had a higher concern because of it’s timing with the mass shooting in Florida hours earlier. At least 17 people were killed in a school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that afternoon in the city of Parkland.

Los Rios Police Captain John McPeek, who has worked with the Los Rios Community College district for 25 years, said there is an ongoing effort to improve safety measures.

“We are in the process of updating our video surveillance system for all campuses,” said McPeek. “There will be district-wide improvements. We want to use as many tools as we can find.”

Two years ago, in fall 2015, a shooting occurred on campus resulting in the death of Roman Gonzalez. During the incident, an emergency text message was supposed to notify students of the active shooter through the Rave alert system. Instead, the alert came over 30 minutes after police submitted the warning.

The Los Rios district hired an assessor to conduct a post-incident report. The assessment recommended more training in emergency protocols, interior door locks for classrooms, and changes to the alert system. At the time, policy stipulated the school’s public information officer alert the campus. Now police alert the campus directly.

Gabe Ross, the associate vice chancellor of Communications & Media Relations for the Los Rios Community College District, believes campus security is a top priority.

“Nothing is more important than the safety of our students and staff,” Ross said. “We do testing of the Rave alert system once a semester to make sure it’s working properly. The Los Rios police has multiple sergeants trained on how to send notifications in case of an emergency, and they work closely with the dispatch center.” Ross said the LRPD is “always looking to do things better and to engage more with the community.”

Ross worked in the communications department with the Sacramento City Unified School District before his position at Los Rios. Ross said he is familiar in procedures regarding crisis situations and wants to “keep everybody informed” about incidents on campus.

Safety escorts are available through the LRPD 24 hours a day, year round. These can be arranged by calling the campus police department at (916) 558-2221 or through the emergency phones posted throughout campus.

Despite the technological improvements in campus safety, some students are unaware of the services offered by campus police. Ariana Nelson, a first-semester journalism major, said she still takes precautions on campus.

“I don’t know what I would do in a dire situation,” said Nelson. “I don’t see (the police) patrolling the campus. Maybe once or twice, but usually sitting somewhere.”

Nelson’s friend Jazmin Hernandez had similar feelings regarding the visible presence of officers.

“I avoid taking late classes because I don’t like walking back to the parking structures,” said Hernandez, a second-semester chemistry major. “I know (police) are not going to be out there. Their cars are out there but they aren’t patrolling.”

Both Nelson and Hernandez expressed they would like to see more officers patrolling the campus during class times and did not know the location of any campus emergency phones.

Some students did not express worry. Giuseppe Giannini, a returning computer programming major, takes late-night classes without much concern.

“I feel okay walking out of class at night,” said Giannini. “I think campus is a little more secure than walking down a street at night or by a park.”

Giannini said that he would like to see more officers patrolling and was unaware of any safety measures offered by LRPD.

“I didn’t know they offered any safety services,” said Giannini. “They don’t really notify students. They should really tell us.”

McPeek said that even with updated technology, he strongly supports “community-based policing” and encourages the mantra, “See something, say something.”

“We believe in a proactive approach to policing,” McPeek said. “There’s responsibility for all of us to make our environment better. I pride myself in being available to students if they have any concerns. My door is always open.”

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