Costa Mesa School Resource Officer Program Canceled (**Updated)
COSTA MESA SRO PROGRAM CANCELED
Based on several contacts this morning, it is my understanding that the School Resource Officer program at Costa Mesa schools has been canceled effective next month.
LOSS OF A VALUABLE PROGRAM
This program, in which Costa Mesa police officers are an active presence on high school and middle school campuses in Costa Mesa, has long been hailed as very positive program and an effective deterrent to gang participation. The Newport-Mesa Unified School District pays for half the cost of these officers.
OFFICERS MOVED TO PATROL
It is my understanding that the officers who participate in this program will be transferred to patrol duties in an effort to shore-up that effort in the face of diminishing resources due to low staffing levels, departures and injuries. Normally the SRO officers would perform patrol duties during the summer months, when school is out. However, it is my understanding that there is NO anticipation that they will return to the campuses in the fall this year.
As most folks know, the Costa Mesa Police Department is now operating with 131 sworn officers (including a handful from a federal grant) down from 164 two years ago and well below the staffing levels recommended by the consultant the City hired to do an assessment of police operations last year. Former Interim Police Chief Steve Staveley - who did two tours in that role in our city recently - also recommended a much higher staffing level. The current levels were demanded by the current council using numbers that were largely irrelevant to Costa Mesa's circumstances. I wrote about it HERE and HERE.
POLITICS AHEAD OF PUBLIC SAFETY
I'm not surprised that this move has been made. Crime is up in our city and I expect that Chief Tom Gaszi and the CMPD command staff sees this as one way to try to plug holes in our system to keep all residents of the city safe. The current city council majority refuses to permit the CMPD to hire new officers until there is a second pension tier in place, so they've placed political dogma ahead of the safety of all residents and visitors to our city. Shame on them!
Officials from The City, the CMPD and the School District were not available for comment yet. When they are I'll provide their input.
I've heard from the City since I published this story.
PER BILL LOBDELL
Bill Lobdell, Communication Director, sent me the following message:
"It hasn't been cancelled. The program winds down each summer. This year, the shift started a little early because of increased demands and officers out of the lineup as a result of on-duty injuries. It's anticipated that the program will start again in the fall."
CHIEF GAZSI CONFIRMS
This evening I also heard from Chief Tom Gazsi, who confirmed that the SRO program has NOT been canceled, per se. Due to recent injuries to several officers, the summer program was moved forward a couple weeks. He tells me his expectation and hope is to resume the SRO program in the fall, although much depends on the extent of the injuries to the officers and when they can return to regular duty. And, of course, it depends on what's happening elsewhere in the city crime-wise. If crime stats are up significantly it may mean some more creative deployment to attempt to provide a safe city with limited human resources.
NO WORD FROM THE SCHOOL DISTRICT YET
So far, no official word has been received from any member of the School District administration or the board on this issue.