Meet SMC's New Chief of Police
Take one glance around Albert Vasquez's office and it's clear he's a veteran law enforcer. The plaques from the United Nations and the Department of Justice speak for themselves. Vasquez, the new Santa Monica College director of police and safety services, has created policing programs in a variety of locations around the world. His extensive resume ranges from establishing the Hacienda La Puente Unified School District's police department, to representing the Department of Justice and the United Nations in the South East Asian nation of East Timor.
Vasquez experienced a lot before coming to SMC. After spending five years abroad he knows the value of sensitivity towards different cultures. Vasquez worked with 43 different U.N countries in East Timor to develop their policing infrastructure. "It was just a really good opportunity to be able to collaborate...with people that are trying to achieve the same goals," Vasquez said. "[Americans] may not always have the answers."
The experience of working with different cultures is important at SMC. The diverse student body comes from all across the world. "I'm really used to working with the international groups," Vasquez said. "It really gives me a different perspective about how I can do my job."
Vasquez didn't always hold such a high rank in law enforcement. He worked his way up, starting as a police officer in Glendale. From there he took a job in Stanton. Ten months after he took his position, Stanton was incorporated into Orange County. Vasquez was promoted to Sheriff Sergeant, but still was disappointed by working lots of graveyard shifts, he said.
Fortunately, Vasquez avoided this by developing police programs that educated children about drugs. He was one of the first police officers, "To talk to students basically about the dilemma drugs pose in everyone's lives." During the same time period, Vasquez created a similar anti-gang educational program. Vasquez traveled all across the United States and abroad to develop these programs.
"[I] really had an enjoyable time," Vasquez said. "That kind of planted the seed for two things education and going overseas." Vasquez extended his passion for law enforcement education in Bosnia. During this time, Bosnia was emerging as a newly democratic society. The U.S State Department sent police officers to rebuild their police forces, Vasquez said. "I authored a 40 hour curriculum on...just everything having to do with a law enforcement agency."
Creating a police force with emphasis on human rights was previously foreign in Bosnia and East Timor, Vasquez said. "They had pretty much an iron fist," Vasquez said. "If you don't come back home your family knows you're in prison. Or worse, meaning that you're not going to be seen again." Therefore, Vasquez was in charge of restructuring a police force around human rights, dignity and respect, he said.
After returning from East Timor, Vasquez wanted to continue his career in law enforcement. At first, he spent 19 months as the Inglewood Unified School District's police chief. Then, he spent five years creating the Hacienda La Puente School District police department. "For people in law enforcement you always say, wow if I had the opportunity I would do it my way or it would be differently," Vasquez said.
As SMC's police chief, Vasquez plans on running things with an unconventional emphasis on education rather than punishment. In certain circumstances, SMC police officers are encouraged to explain why students are breaking the law instead of always writing citations, Vasquez said. "It becomes a learning situation as opposed to a punitive situation."
Vasquez also plans on creating a civilian board to examine law enforcement, safety and security at SMC.
The Associated Students will represent the needs of people on campus. "We want the input of the students," Vasquez said. "I don't need to impose my will upon the students here."