Police Program Cut at 3 Junior Highs : Education: Budget ills force suspension of the 21-year-old service. But parents protest the elimination of officers.
For the first time in 21 years, police were absent Tuesday when almost 4,500 teen-agers returned to classes at three junior high schools in Glendale.
City officials said its police counseling program was suspended because of budget restrictions, dwindling resources within the Police Department and the school district’s refusal to share the $250,000 cost of the program, previously paid entirely by the city.
Officials of the Glendale Unified School District, meanwhile, accused the city of reneging on a 3-year-old “unwritten agreement” that both the city and the district would work together to reduce campus problems.
Responding to angry protests from parents, the City Council on Tuesday told City Manager David Ramsay to meet with school officials to work out a compromise to restore police counseling services on junior high campuses.
The program had provided for an officer to be assigned full time to each of three junior highs--Toll, Roosevelt and Wilson. Rosemont Junior High, the fourth in Glendale Unified, is outside the city limits and has a sheriff’s deputy assigned to the school part-time.
The police resource officers taught classes, spoke at assemblies, helped deter gang and drug activity and worked to keep students in school, officials said.
Parents, mostly from Toll Junior High School, armed with petitions signed by about 500 people, told the council the cutbacks could lead to violence and gang activity in the schools and greater crime in the community.
While campus police officers still are assigned to high schools, parents argued that elimination of the program at the junior high level will cost more in the long run.
“The junior high population is very volatile, very active,” said Lynda Rocamora, a Toll parent who recited state statistics on the number of youngsters in their early teens convicted of violent crimes and serving in youth detention programs. “By the time these students reach high school, it will be too late. We will all have to pay, either now or later.”
The junior high police positions have been transferred to higher priority duties, such as answering 911 emergency calls and investigating crimes, said Ronald DePompa, captain of administrative services for the Glendale Police Department.
The shifting of duties is largely due to escalation of big-city crime in Glendale, DePompa said. He said 911 calls, for instance, have climbed from about 45,000 a year to 60,000 in the last year.
“We have come to the conclusion that everyone is in favor of helping our school resource officers,” said Maureen Miller, past president of the Toll Parent-Teacher Assn. “Statewide economics is our problem here.”
Both city and school officials said each has spent more than $1 million to reduce problems within the schools, despite tightened revenues. The school district pays for private security guards, fencing, intercoms and other safety measures on campuses; the city pays for police programs and crossing guards. Each side called on the other to make up the shortfall.
“There is a need for give and take on both sides,” said Councilman Carl Raggio, who blamed the Proposition 13 property tax initiative for cramping the revenue-producing power of all agencies. He urged protesters “to take the same vigor before the Board of Education.”
But council members said they would like city officials to reach an agreement with the school district within a week. Trustees of Glendale Unified are not scheduled to meet until 5 p.m. Tuesday, after the 2 p.m. City Council session.
“We tried to figure out where the reduction of service would have the least serious consequences for our community,” DePompa said. “It was a tough policy decision that had to be made. . . . When resources allow, we intend to resume both of those programs.”