San Jacinto

When students return to Mt. San Jacinto College in August, they will notice a new police presence on campus, including police officers in uniform and black and white squad cars, all calculated to create a safer campus environment. Although campus crime has not been a serious problem, the College has grown and developed over the years,” said Richard J. Giese, MSJC president, “and we need to ensure a safe environment for our students. We are one of the last colleges of this size to implement a police department.”

“In addition to law enforcement and creating a safe atmosphere, the new police department will educate students and faculty about crime prevention and self defense,” said Tommy Tunson, chief of the newly formed Mt. San Jacinto College Police Department. The department will also integrate with the College’s Administration of Justice program, using students as interns.

Until now, the college employed security personnel, who had no real authority, could not issue citations for parking or traffic violations and did not carry weapons. If there was a problem on campus, the security people called the local police department for assistance.

The new MSJC police will be in uniform, drive patrol cars, and have the same authority as city or state police. They will issue warnings or tickets for parking or traffic violations, which will carry standard fines and will be enforced by the state court system.

“This is a major cultural change for the college,” said Tunson (pronounced Too-Sawn). The MSJC police will enforce parking and traffic rules and criminal code violations, which is new and will require a transition period. “A parking ticket violator will be permitted an appeal process to review the infraction. Moving violations for speeding or failure to obey a stop sign will be adjudicated by the state court, just as any other ticket issued by police,” Tunson said.

Tunson, who was hired on April 15, has been setting up the department and hiring staff, including Kevin Segawa of San Diego, who began his job as a police officer in June. A second police officer will be hired in July, enabling full time police coverage at both the San Jacinto and Menifee campuses of MSJC.

The MSJC Police department is paid for in part by a $150,000 federal grant, which will cover partial salaries of the two police officers for three years. To qualify for the grant, the MSJC police department had to meet the requirements of the California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST), which is the same agency that certifies municipal police officers and sheriff’s deputies.

A native of Southern California, Tunson, grew up in the South Central area of Los Angeles and decided to become a police officer at age 15 after the devastating riots in 1965. “I know I wanted to be part of the solution” (to the problem), he said.

He studied administration of justice at Santa Ana Community College, and worked as a security officer on that campus. He transferred to National University in San Diego and earned a Bachelor’s degree, followed by a doctorate degree in law from Pacific West School of Law in 1995.

With his active professional life, Tunson says he is known by three different titles: Police Chief, Professor and Lt. Colonel. In addition to being the Police Chief at MSJC, he is a part-time instructor of criminal justice at the University of Phoenix. He is a Lt. Colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves and his present assignment is the Assistant Emergency Preparedness Liaison Officer for the 5th U.S. Army’s Homeland Security section, and is responsible for 11 Southern California counties.

With more than 26 years of police work to his credit, Tunson has served as Interim Chief of Police for the South Gate Police Department in Los Angeles County, Police Chief for the Calexico Police Department, and Police Chief in Coachella. He served in the U.S. Army for five years as the Provost Marshal (military chief of police) at Los Alamitos, CA and Ft. Bliss, Texas.

He has been active in a number of professional associations, including the International Association of Chiefs of Police, California Chiefs of Police Association, and the Fraternal Order of Police.

Tunson lives in Murrieta with his wife, LaRae, who is the Director of Admissions for the University of California, Riverside. He is the father of two adult daughters.

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