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Citrus Heights to look into putting police officers in every school

Sylvan Middle School
File photo, Sylvan Middle School opened for the first day of class with a newly expanded and renovated campus on Aug. 18, 2016. //CH Sentinel

By Sara Beth Williams–
Prompted by school shootings across the United States and other security concerns, the City of Citrus Heights is moving ahead with studying the feasibility of putting a police officer on every public school campus in the city.

During an Oct. 25 Strategic Planning Retreat at City Hall, Councilmember Bret Daniels proposed a study on the feasibility and funding needed to provide each public school with a Citrus Heights police officer. The proposal was initially brought up twice before.

“I don’t know of any at all plan to put sworn police officers back in to our schools,” Daniels said during the planning retreat before outlining his vision. Daniels said he wanted to place 12 CHPD officers at each of the 12 public schools in Citrus Heights, and emphasized that police presence will help build “positive relationships with youngsters.”

As of Nov. 9, 2022, the San Juan Unified School District’s Safe Schools webpage stated that off-duty officers provide services to schools in the district, and Citrus Heights provides two officers to support schools within the city limits. However, the district in an email to The Sentinel said that information was outdated.

“We transitioned from the use of the Sacramento Sheriff’s Department several years ago,” SJUSD Director of Communication Raj Rai said in an email statement to the Sentinel on Nov. 11. “In its place, we implemented our own safety specialists, including in Citrus Heights, that are assigned to their school sites so that they can know students, staff and community needs.”

Rai said historically Citrus Heights provided two officers to support schools within city limits, but said CHPD reassigned those resources to other youth-focused priorities of their own volition.

During an Oct. 13 city council meeting, and again during the strategic planning retreat, Daniels referenced recent violent offenses that have occurred on high school campuses, risking the safety of students. He referenced the attack of a student at John F. Kennedy School in the Sacramento City Unified School District by intruders who entered the campus without permission, and then later referenced an attack by a gunman at a performing arts high school in St. Louis, Missouri.

“This is what is going on in America, if you think it can’t happen here, we’re just crazy,” Daniels said during the Oct. 13 council meeting. “It can happen here so easily.”

Daniels’ colleagues on the council had consensus to move forward with the feasibility study, with Councilmember Jeanie Bruins echoing Daniels’ assertion that police presence would provide a positive influence and adding that it would also help with crime prevention. While Middleton initially suggested that the city needed to collaborate with CHPD on the idea, she did not disagree with a feasibility study. Councilman Steve Miller was not in attendance during the discussion.

Next steps include plans for a presentation during the Jan. 12, 2023, city council meeting by the San Juan Unified Safe Schools program “related to current practices and protocols, and district planning for additional security enhancements,” according to Megan Huber, the city’s economic development and community engagement director.

Huber said that presentation will be followed by a report from Police Chief Alex Turcotte who will present an analysis of placing a Citrus Heights Police Officer at each Citrus Heights school.

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