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Vice mayor urges funding for officers at Citrus Heights high schools

By Sara Beth Williams–
Citrus Heights Police presented findings earlier this month from a study that reviewed the feasibility and cost of placing a police officer on each of the high school campuses within the city, estimating a cost of more than $300,000 annually.

According to Chief of Police Alex Turcotte, Citrus Heights previously had employed one law enforcement officer each at San Juan and Mesa Verde high schools, but those positions were eliminated. Director of Safe Schools for the San Juan Unified School District Mike Jones outlined several factors which led to the elimination of law enforcement presence on the high school campuses, including staff restructuring and shortages, increased costs, and pandemic-related mandates.

In order to place law enforcement officers on high school campuses, Turcotte cited an overall startup cost of $250,000 and an annual cost of $340,000 which would cover the salaries of two full-time police officers, and other necessary equipment costs.

During the Aug. 10 council meeting, Jones emphasized the benefits of the current model employed by Safe Schools, which uses “highly trained” Community Safety Specialists instead of law enforcement officers. Currently, Citrus Heights is assigned one primary community safety specialist and two supporting community safety specialists. 

According to Turcotte, after evaluating high-level incidents during the 2022-23 school year, a total of 24 incidents required a law enforcement response during school hours. In contrast, he said there were over 300 behavioral-related incidents that did not require a law enforcement response during school hours. 

Mayor Tim Schaefer said while he sees the current model as “preventative,” he is concerned about non-student incidents, citing the example of a parent who entered San Juan High School and attacked a student in the morning at the end of March.

“I think it’s important to project a certain level of strength that deters people from committing these kinds of acts,” Schaefer said.

Councilmember Porsche Middleton praised the district for acknowledging all of the concerns presented by the council in the past. Middleton added she was concerned about the safety of “all schools” not just the local high schools, and she would like to see the district’s current plan through before spending general funds on more police officers.

Daniels recommended to the council that the item be brought back for future consideration for funding two police officers, calling police presence “proactive” and “extremely beneficial” both to the schools and to the community at large. 

“This is not a budget issue,” Daniels said, “The funds are there, we just have to decide, where is the priority?”

Daniels’ motion was seconded by the mayor, meaning the matter will be added to a future agenda item for discussion and possible action.

Related: District shares update on safety improvements for Citrus Heights schools

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