Suddenly, officers with Sonoma County’s least understood and perhaps most under-estimated police department are very much in the news.

The vicious assault on a woman in the theater-arts department at Santa Rosa Junior College and the JC’s expanded no-smoking rules both are commanding attention from officers with the SRJC police. And, yes, they are real police.

There’s a misconception that the JC cops are cadets, or that their jurisdiction ends at the sidewalks bordering the campus. There’s also a hilarious, true story about a guy who committed some sort of crime on the main campus, then ran from a district officer.

The suspect hoofed it across the front lawn and onto Mendocino Avenue, where he danced a little victory dance, so sure was he was that the pursuing officer had no jurisdiction past the SRJC property line. Boy, was he surprised when the officer – perfectly legally – grabbed and cuffed him.

It’s true that decades ago, the junior college was patrolled only by student officers who didn’t carry guns and were not sworn police officers. There are still cadets today, but they supplement the SRJC officers who are working to identify the attacker of the woman in Burbank Auditorium and are warning violators of the no-smoking rule.

These are fully trained, fully armed, fully empowered officers who can and do assist people and write citations on public streets, and who work alongside their CHP, sheriff’s department and city police colleagues on drunken-driver campaigns and other countywide enforcement efforts.

Who knows, the next time you or I need a cop we may be most relieved to see one who could work anywhere but chooses to wear the uniform of the SRJC District Police.

Kiddie cops, indeed.