San Diego schools could cut 21 officers due to budget cuts

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SAN DIEGO – The San Diego Unified School District Board of Education will hold a special meeting Tuesday to discuss proposed cuts as it faces an expected $124 million budget shortfall.

FOX 5 has learned some of the cuts may affect safety in San Diego schools.

“The school police department is looking at a 25 percent cut to their budget in operation costs,” said San Diego School Police Officers' Association President Dana Ellis.

Ellis said school police are the first line of response when it comes to any potential issues at school.

“We were there at Morse when they had reports of a person on campus with a weapon, same thing at Chollas Mead a couple of weeks back,” said Ellis.  “Our community service officers are police officers, our first line of safety and security on the campuses they are assigned to.”

Ellis said 17 community service officers, two school patrol officers, one detective and a police sergeant stand to lose their jobs.  She said it’s part of the central office cuts the district is proposing.

“Notifications have been sent out to the affected staff that they could be losing their jobs or demoted or essentially their current position,” said Ellis.

She said with 43 sworn officers and the 17 community officers serving 30 elementary schools, the department is already stretched thin.

“It’s a ratio of about three officers per 10,000 students,” said Ellis.

That’s compared to the San Diego Police Department’s ratio of 13 officers per 10,000 residents and a national average of 21 officers per 10,000 residents.

“Not a lot of personnel to handle potential issues,” said Ellis.  “In this time and age, safety is not anything to mess around with.”

FOX 5 reached out to San Diego Unified School District and we were given the following statement from Interim Police Chief Michael Marquez:

Parents should know our schools will be safe, both now and in the future because of the hard work of our officers, complimented by the outstanding leadership from our partners, the principals and school counselors, who de-escalate difficult situations before they get out of hand.

San Diego is one of the safest large districts in the state, and we will continue to provide students with safe campuses when they return this fall.

School Police officers provide a unique and essential role in our schools.  While they serve as law enforcement officers, more importantly, they are campus safety experts, focusing on crime prevention and restorative practices.

Reduction in police staffing is obviously a difficult decision.  However, in this instance, we elected not to reduce the number of sworn officers on active duty, as the two police officer positions being cut are currently vacant.  Furthermore, the sergeant and detective being eliminated are considered support staff, not assigned directly to school sites.

The final budget for our department will not be approved for another 4 months, but the district is facing an expected budget shortfall of $124 million. Sadly, that means we may need to eliminate our community service officers, who also serve in a support role.

We will reassess our budget in the spring after the Governor issues his May revisions to the state budget.

The board will vote Feb. 28 on whether to proceed with layoff notices in March.