Schools lose security patrol

Schools in Costa Mesa are back to using a stopgap security measure now that a police officer assigned to the city's high school campuses has moved on to work in the private sector.

Since last month, Estancia and Costa Mesa high schools no longer have a police officer dedicated to the campuses. The district's two Newport Beach high schools have one each.

Instead, the Costa Mesa campuses have returned to relying on patrol officers who visit campuses as their time allows.

"It's not a perfect deal," said Chuck Hinman, deputy superintendent with the Newport-Mesa Unified School District. "We'd love to go back to the school resource officer."

Costa Mesa police, though, say they don't have enough staff to provide one.

Corona del Mar and Newport Harbor high schools in Newport Beach have a police officer dedicated to each campus through that city's school resource officer program.

In Costa Mesa, Estancia and Mesa lost their sole dedicated officer in October 2012 when Officer Jess Gilman retired from the city's police force.

Soon after though, Gilman returned to work at the two campuses on contract. His final day at the schools was last month when he left to go to a company that provides security services in the Beverly Hills Unified School District.

Meanwhile, the Newport-Mesa school district is returning to a plan that assigns regular patrol officers as liaisons to the high schools. The officers check in with the campuses and are the schools' points of contact with the Costa Mesa Police Department.

That program had been scaled back while Gilman was assigned to the two schools, but Hinman called the liaison program the "status quo," with Gilman's extra time at the schools a bonus.

Newport-Mesa and the Police Department both want to bring the school resource officer program back to Estancia and Mesa, but there's no timeline at this point.

Police Chief Tom Gazsi said the department is aggressively recruiting and has put a high priority on staffing the program, but the city had delayed hiring within the department until last year while members of the City Council pushed for pension reductions for new hires.

Newport-Mesa Unified previously decided against hiring a private firm to supply security services.

Hinman said the district is open to other solutions while it waits for the Police Department to staff up. "Right now the only thing that we have on the table is the Costa Mesa liaison relationship," he said.

[For the record, 9:20 a.m. Dec. 12: An earlier version of this story incorrectly referred to Officer Jess Gilman as a sergeant.]

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