San Diego school district considers slashing police staff - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

San Diego Unified School District considers slashing police staff

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San Diego (CBS 8) - Two weeks after the Carlsbad school shooting at Kelly Elementary, San Diego Schools Police Chief Don Braun was asked to give a report to the Board of Education on school safety.

Chief Don Braun told News 8, "It's unfortunate it takes a tragedy or near tragedy to create awareness in public safety and how it relates to public schools."

Braun released these statistics on recent budget cuts and campus crime. Over the past four years, police positions have been cut by 32 percent and operating funds slashed by 45 percent.

In that time, violent crime has risen 31 percent, property crime is up 12 percent, drug and alcohol offenses are up almost 11 percent, and weapons violations has risen by almost 8 percent.

The district's police department, which is recognized by the state of California as a police agency, has 46 fully sworn officers, 20 community service officers, 9 dispatchers and 4 office staff. Each year, officers respond to more than 10,000 calls for police assistance, conduct 3,500 criminal investigations and make about 850 arrests.

The agency has brought in more than $6 million in grant money over the past decade, which is currently helping to fund a 700 camera surveillance system. With the district in crisis, however, the police department is on a list of potential cuts.

During public comment, one community member told the board members, "If you vote to reduce or eliminate your police department, there will come a day when a tragic incident will occur, and time and lives wasted, waiting for help to come." He added, "If you eliminate school police, and there's a school shooting, you will have our children's blood on your hands."

At a news conference before the meeting, school principals voiced their concerns. Mel Collins, Executive Principal at Lincoln High School said, "If the board of education decides to cut school police, they can all resign, and turn in their keys." He said it would be an egregious disservice to students.

Trustees Shelia Jackson and Katherine Nakamura made their support for school police known. School Board President Richard Barrera said, especially on the heels of the Carlsbad school shooting, "We just can't be in a situation where we're making our kids vulnerable like that."

The trustees are facing tough choices, and will have to make deep cuts to close the projected $141 million budget gap. Barrera says after several years of budget cuts, they have trimmed all the fat. "This is the worst crisis this district has ever faced in the 156 year history of this school district," Barrera said. So he is asking San Diegans to support Prop J, a parcel tax of roughly $8 a month for homeowners, and $37 a month for businesses, which would generate $50-million dollars a year for the district, for the next five years. Opponents say the school board has a poor track record of managing funds, and are concerned the district could use the money to raise salary and pension benefits. Voters in district will decide on Prop J on November 2nd.

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