The School Resource Officer grant issue is going to be decided soon, perhaps as early as our next Burbank City Council meeting. As a 31-year veteran of Burbank Police Department, a former SRO, and a parent with a child in local schools, I would encourage close attention to this matter.
Looking back, the police chief opted to cut the SRO program from three to one officer as part of required budget cuts. This signaled a significant change in organizational philosophy. For about 40 years the SRO program had been the centerpiece of the department’s community based policing commitment. In previous tough economies, prior chiefs would minimize, or even eliminate other specialized details but refused to allow SRO’s to fall to fewer than three officers.
I believe the chief recognized the value of the program and seized the opportunity to apply for a grant to re-staff three SRO’s. Apparently the grant application described Burbank's need to be so significant, and Rep. Adam Schiff’s influence was so great, that Burbank was one of the communities to receive funds. Both the city and Schiff issued press releases on how wonderful it was for our community.
The chief applied for the grant. Our congressman went to bat for us and we got what the chief asked for. Now we might give it back?
Rejecting the grant now would almost certainly impact future grant applications. It would also raise questions that must be answered. Did the council know all along of the cost? If so, did they assume Burbank Unified School District would agree to split the cost? How much staff time (taxpayer dollars) went into securing the grant? Most importantly, why wasn’t all of this considered and openly discussed with BUSD and stakeholders before we applied or at least during the application process?
Rejecting this grant now without introducing an alternate plan to staff SRO’s screams of incompetence and inefficiency. Additionally, it makes the council look like bratty kids who were not pleased with their birthday presents.
Burbank residents, students, and teachers deserve a well-run and accountable SRO program. Grant or no grant, please consider letting the council know you support swiftly re-staffing school resource officers.