Budget crunch could hit campus officers

COSTA MESA — The City Council today will consider reducing by half the number of police officers who patrol the city's major high schools.

Two officers, rather than four, would monitor student activities to prevent conflict or violence at Costa Mesa and Estancia high schools, according to a city staff report. The officers will also be responsible for handling calls on other campuses within Costa Mesa as needed, said Costa Mesa Police Sgt. Keith Davis.

The council is scheduled to approve the reduction in a memorandum of agreement with the Newport-Mesa Unified School District during its council meeting today.

Costa Mesa and Newport-Mesa Unified entered into an agreement in 2001 to provide two school resource officers on campus. Two additional officers were added in 2007 as part of an effort to tackle youth gang activity , according to the city report. But Costa Mesa's budget, which forced the city to lay off many of its employees, can no longer provide the full force, Davis said.

The impact of fewer school resource officers would not be known until the school year begins, Davis said.

"It's going to increase the work load for officers and we'll have to see if that spills over," Davis said.

The officers receive about $172,000 each in annual salary and benefits.

The school district shares the cost with the city.

The Newport Beach Police Department also provides two officers who monitor Newport school campuses. The officers in both cities are housed at the high schools.

Newport-Mesa Supt. Jeff Hubbard said while the district benefits greatly from having the police officers on campus, he understands the city's position.

"We certainly love them, but we understand the city is having difficulties right now," Hubbard said. "As a district, we will make do."

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