After years of cuts, Burbank schools will get back second school resource officer
The Burbank Police Department next month will restore a second school-resource officer position, beefing up a program that was slashed over years of budget cuts and staffing shortages after parents in recent months pushed for a larger police presence on campus.
At its peak, the program boasted six officers, but for several years, the agency has staffed just one.
“We’ve been waiting and waiting and waiting for the city to decide that it was a worthwhile expenditure for them,” said Burbank parent Amy Kamm, president of the Burbank Council PTA. “But as a parent, it’s invaluable.”
Two years ago, the city turned down a $375,000 federal grant that would have partially funded three school-resource officer positions for three years because it came with a steep local match of $1.2 million over four years.
A couple of months after declining the grant, the City Council set aside funding for a second school-resource officer, but the position was never filled due to staffing shortages at the police department. Since last July, the sole school resource officer position was filled by newly promoted detectives unable to assume those roles due to the vacancies.
Starting in mid-September, two officers will take over the full-time positions, with one slated to be assigned— with an office — to Burbank High School and the other at Burroughs High School, said Burbank Police Lt. JJ Puglisi.
Both officers will be specially trained to recognize signs of child abuse and sexual assault, and will respond first to campus calls involving suspected child abuse and will be tapped by detectives to help with school-related investigations.
“My hope would be it would be another adult, another authority figure, that they can look to when whatever is going on,” Kamm said.
The officers will also respond to issues at Burbank’s 11 elementary schools and three middle schools, as well as the city’s alternative-education programs.
“There would be obviously much more of a presence on campus than there has been for a while,” said Puglisi, referring to the high school campuses.
He pointed to the investigative value these positions bring. “The more you’re in contact with a certain group, the more you know who’s friends with who, who associates with who, who doesn’t get along with who,” he said.
By filling these positions, however, the agency is delaying filling open detective positions, he said.
When Kamm’s daughter — now a senior at Burbank High School — started elementary school, Kamm remembered seeing a school-resource officer on campus.
“We were living in hog heaven, not really knowing we were living in hog heaven,” she said. “There was definitely a sense of safety and security when he was around.”
Burbank parent Laura McKinney was also pleased with the extra resource, pointing to recent violence that involved young people, including an 18-year-old man charged in a stabbing last week and a 22-year-old man shot this week near McCambridge Park.
“If they had the influence of an SRO … perhaps their direction could’ve been changed,” McKinney said. “You have to get these kids when they’re young and change the direction they’re going.”
Alene Tchekmedyian, email@example.com