Cops to come back to campus

By From page A1 | March 10, 2014

Deep budget cuts to police services and schools caused the School Resource Officer program to be discontinued at El Dorado High School in 2009, but a grant and approval from the Placerville City Council will put an SRO back at El Dorado High and give them time at Schnell School, Sierra Elementary and Markham Middle School as well.

A cost sharing agreement between the Placerville Police Department, Placerville Union School District and El Dorado High School would establish a full-time SRO position.

Placerville Union School District was awarded an 18-month Project School Emergency Response to Violence Grant. Schnell School was the location of an on-campus murder of Principal Sam LaCara in 2011.

City Manager Cleve Morris said the city has been working closely with the Placerville Union School District. “They came to us and they have to make a decision about whether to move forward with the grant,” he said.

Placerville Union School District committed to funding personnel costs of 60 percent of a full-time equivalent of a police officer for the remainder of the 2013-2014 school year and the entire 2014-2015 school year. El Dorado Union High School District agreed to fund the personnel cost of the remaining .40 percent FTE during the same time period.

The city of Placerville was asked to fund the four weeks of the 2013-2014 school year when school is out of session and the 12 weeks of the 2013-2014 school year when the school year is out of session. The cost for 2013-2014 will be about $10,000 and $31,000 for 2014-2015. The officer will be used for extra patrols or investigations in the city during this time.

The SRO position will be filled from within the department, said Lieutenant Kim Nida. “Our officers already have ties to the schools and they know the community. We need to have that police presence in the schools, especially after what happened at Schnell School, to develop ties with the children who were present during that tragedy,” she said.

“We have two vacant police positions we’ve been struggling to fill, so we have the money to fund the four weeks this year,” said  Morris. “We can address how to fund the 2014-2015 year during the budget process. There are a number of options.” The City Council will be going through the process of developing a budget for fiscal year 2014-2015 in May.

Morris said filling the position from within the department will leave three vacancies temporarily, but agreeing to fund the SRO would authorize another police position for the department and recruitment for three positions instead of two would go out. “The two vacant police officer positions are used primarily to fill in for other officers who are doing training or on vacation and we can choose whether or not to fill them,” Morris said. “I’m cautiously optimistic that our revenues will continue to increase.”

The new SRO will be on the EDHS campus 40 percent of the time and split between Sierra, Schnell and Markham schools 60 percent of the time. They will be an employee of the city and subject to the administration, supervision and control of the Chief of Police and work with the schools to provide direct law enforcement services and a visible presence on campus.

After a motion by Councilwoman Wendy Thomas, seconded by Councilwoman Trisha Wilkins, the resolution to execute a Memorandum of Understanding with the Placerville Union School District and the El Dorado Union High School District passed with a 5-0 vote. The School Resource Officer will begin work on school campuses on March 17.

Using officer overtime to cover all the positions until new officers could be hired is planned. “The cost of a new officer could be less than projected, depending on the officer’s experience,” said Mayor Carl Hagen. “Overtime is sometimes cheaper because there is no duplication of benefits.”

Contact Wendy Schultz at 530 344-5069 or [email protected] Follow @wschultzMtDemo on Twitter.

Wendy Schultz

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