MERCED, Calif. (KFSN) --UC Merced is the focus of a new bill that could provide more than $1-million for safety improvements at the university.
The proposal comes after a student attacked four people with a knife on campus last year. In many ways, the campus has returned to normal since that attack four months ago. But one state lawmaker said it showed why this university needs the same safety equipment others in the UC system already have.
November 4th, 2015 was a dark day at UC Merced. Eighteen-year-old student Faisal Mohammad attacked two students, a staff member, and a construction worker with a knife before he was shot and killed by a campus police officer. "It was just a scary time for the community. Certainly, my heart went out to the victims, and it was just a sad, sad, situation," said Assemblyman Adam Gray.
Assemblyman Gray said authorities did an excellent job in responding to the tragedy, but it also shed light on equipment the campus was lacking. Spokesperson Patti Waid released a statement saying quote, "During the initial growth of the UC Merced campus, some areas related to safety were under-resource, and, therefore, we do not presently have the same safety equipment as our sister UC campuses."
University law enforcement leaders developed a list of items after the attack-- including new camera systems and special chairs to evacuate people from tall buildings. Now Gray has proposed a bill to give UC Merced about $1.3-million to buy that equipment. "We just want to do everything I can in the state to support the campus, and, make sure they have all the resources they need."
The bill also addresses a concern at the Merced County Sheriff's Office. The department is currently down about 20 deputies because of challenges with recruitment and retention. So, the legislation would give peace officer status to correctional officers so they can assist outside of the jails during emergencies. "If we had a major incident in this county, I'm obviously running out of deputy sheriff's on the street, and this would allow me to have the availability for at least a hundred others that work in our correctional division. If we had a major flood, or whatever, where we needed peace officers out," said Vern Warnke, Merced County Sheriff.
Sheriff Warnke said correctional officers already have most of the training they need to be peace officers, and Merced would be joining 32 other California counties by taking that step.
As for the funding for this university-- it would come out of the state's general fund if the bill is approved.