Prepared From The Ground UpPublished: June 2, 2014
Now in his 24th year on campus, Fernando Solorzano sometimes can’t believe he’s the CSULB Police Chief.
“It’s been a great journey so far,” he said.
The opportunity for Solorzano came surprisingly soon with the unexpected retirement announcement in 2010 of then-police chief Stan Skipworth.
“I would say it was good timing for me,” he said. “When the opportunity presented itself, I seized the moment, took the initiative and pursued my goal of becoming the Chief of Police here at CSULB. I’m beginning my 24th year here at the university; within that timeframe I have worked very hard at building relationships with members of the campus community so as to familiarize myself with what the expectations might be with regard to such a leadership position.”
According to Solorzano, first being a student at CSULB and then beginning at the lower level as a police officer helped him to learn from the ground up the ins and outs of what’s expected of a police officer. And as he furthered his education and training, he began to learn the different roles that come with this career.
“Then, over the course of time, rising through the ranks and into management,” he said, “you really begin to understand what it takes to make this campus work, becoming intimately involved in the day-to-day complexities of working at a higher level within the administration; you really begin to understand and develop an appreciation for what it takes to make things work within the context of a law enforcement agency—in a university or college environment.”
The chief’s No. 1 concern, of course, is campus safety and he feels it is safer today for a number of reasons.
“At this point in time, I would say our campus is much safer than it was 10 years ago; much of our progress in this regard has as much to do with the implementation of a training strategy that has focused on not only prevention but preparedness in many critical areas, as well as a broad-based public awareness campaign directed by our Crime Prevention Program,” he said. “The team I have assembled has been particularly astute in this regard. When it came time to evaluate where we were in terms of training and readiness, available technologies, and the means to deliver or implement them, they made use of every available resource—including other CSUs and UCs as well as outside law enforcement agencies—in order to develop long-term strategies and the requisite enhancements to existing programs designed to ensure the health and safety of our campus community. In addition, we have been very proactive in our efforts to reach out to the surrounding community—particularly when it involves active shooter scenarios which I am sure is a topic of conversation and concern throughout our city and the nation.”
Solorzano credits the world of technology for improved campus safety, particularly the surveillance system that has many eyes around the campus.
“Because of the cameras our auto thefts and burglaries have significantly decreased over the past three years,” he noted. “Technology such as our emergency notification system—more commonly known as Beach Alert—is significant in that it enables us to inform our community about an active or ongoing emergency that may be taking place. We also use the emergency notification system in our training scenarios as well as our public safety drills when it is important to notify and execute our evacuation drills that we have twice a year. That’s when we test our system to make sure we are effective in our efforts to inform our community, making sure that we have the best information available to them for that specific event.”
One change that may be noticeable to students will be the allowance of skateboard usage throughout campus, something that had been prohibited due to a Long Beach Municipal code. Now, skateboarding will be allowed on campus, with various dismount zones, where skateboards, bicycles or any type of similar device will not be allowed. Those areas will be clearly identified with postings to make sure all individuals know they are not supposed to be riding within those areas.
“The police department, as well as the administration, have taken into consideration the fact that skateboards are not just for ‘fun’, but are used as a means of alternate transportation,” said Solorzano. “Of course we hope that those students who use skateboards to get to and from class will remember to exercise restraint and use common courtesy when on campus; this is still a pedestrian-oriented campus and the police department, in conjunction with our local city government will continue to make sure that we have the proper enforcement tools to ensure that this is a safe campus and that enforcement of existing regulations and statutes, remains in effect.”
He is also going to continue his campaign with emergency preparedness, making it a key area for university goals.
“In my opinion, emergency preparedness is extremely important,” he said. “Emergency preparedness is a means to better prepare our community to respond to most kinds of emergencies that may take place on our campus or in the surrounding community, which includes natural disasters.”
Solorzano feels very fortunate to have worked under the previous two police chiefs at CSULB—Jack Pearson and Skipworth—and credits them with his being prepared to serve as chief.
“Jack Pearson was the chief of police when I got hired; I was the first officer he hired that was not a lateral transfer from an outside agency. Jack was the primary catalyst who put me through the academy,” he said. “I can say that he was a great mentor, a great leader and just a great chief in the absolute sense. Chief Pearson was responsible for putting in place a strong foundation for our organization, our department and what we are today can be traced back to Jack.
“Stan Skipworth was very instrumental in laying the groundwork for my personal and professional development,” he added. “He played a pivotal role as my mentor, my guide, and key in making sure I had the necessary foundation in both practical and professional terms. Stan ensured that I had the ‘tools’ that were necessary to be able to succeed him when he retired. Both men were exemplary individuals, good examples, good mentors and I was very fortunate to have them as my chiefs who were able to share their knowledge and prepare me for what I have accomplished today.”