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SAFE Team transition to University Police supervision holds unanswered questions

After a year of planning, SAFE Team, the student-run escort service is now conforming
to University Police (UP) standards, but the fate of current employees still remains unclear.

Beginning July 1, the Student Government (SG) bureau has officially operated under UP supervision – an initiative former SG President Juan Soltero proposed a year ago.

With the new supervision came new guidelines for all current and future SAFE Team employees. The students must now complete a drug test and background check, the same requirements for employees to acquire a UP position.

Nelson Ling, director of SAFE Team, said the drug tests will be administered in two weeks. However, SAFE Team, which will become the only SG-funded operation to be required to take the tests, does not have the funds to offer the tests and must request about $5,000 to $6,000 from the Senate to afford them, he said.

While under UP supervision, the bureau will still be funded by SG with money from the student-paid Activity and Service (A&S) fees.

“I do plan on, whenever it does go in front of Senate, asking for a pay increase because they have to go through additional training,” Ling said. “That was one of the concerns the employees had – the compensation or necessarily what are the benefits of merging with UP.”

SG President Cesar Hernandez said he isn’t sure what the Senate will decide in terms of funding, but he is confident they will make the right decision.

“I really do feel that Senate makes really good (decisions), and they’ve been doing a good job. I can’t say what decision they make, but under the current leadership … I don’t think it will be an issue,” he said. “Right now, I think that since the University is growing and security is becoming an issue … it’s good that we start working and cultivating the relationships we have with professional staff, and I actually like the idea.”

According to university procedures, SAFE Team employees would have to be fired before being drug tested and then re-hired, Ling said. Drug testing and background checks will be scheduled depending on an employee’s availability and must be taken within 48 hours

“Now, I don’t know if that will really happen,” Ling said. “That’s why I’m really trying to make sure … that it doesn’t turn out to be a two-week process. Another question I had was regarding SG policy and hiring because technically if we terminate someone, we have to advertise for two business days because that is in statutes, but Human Resources has the final say over SG statutes.”

Ling and UP Lieutenant Joe Anderson, the supervisor for SAFE Team, plan to begin testing a small group of the 45 employees instead of having all employees take the test in the same time period – an action that has the potential to cease operations.

“If they fail, then they get terminated,” Anderson said. “We will still be completely operational at this time. At least that’s our goal.”