Price on safety? Cuts would eliminate police in Portland schools

Price on safety? Cuts would eliminate police in Portland schools »Play Video
Portland Police Officer Spencer Sheldon talks with a student at Grant High School Wednesday. He says the proposal to eliminate police officers who patrol Portland schools would be a mistake.

PORTLAND, Ore. – Portland police officers stationed in high schools are at risk of being removed from the campuses to save money.

Right now, 21 sworn officers are assigned to schools across the Portland area.
 
The proposal, Portland Police Chief Mike Reese's budget, came as a surprise to the officers and administrators Wednesday, especially so soon after the Connecticut shooting.

Meanwhile, school resource officers for Grant High School and Jefferson High School met with members of campus security to discuss what the officers just learned in training for an active-shooter situation.

What happened at Sandy Hook has law enforcement across the country re-evaluating the best practices for keeping schools and kids safe in a situation like that.

But there are a myriad of services an armed and uniformed school resources officer like Spencer Sheldon says he provides that are just as vital on a day-to-day basis.

He's concerned about his role being cut.

"I think it's a mistake," he said. "I think that we have the unique ability to interact with the community like no other officer."

He says his presence on campus is a deterrent to violent crime. He's able to spot the infiltration of gang activity onto campus and put a stop to it.

He believes the visual impact of his patrol car being out in front of Grant High School helps keep known gang members away and reduce their ability to recruit younger kids.

He also mitigates conflicts between children and removes guns when they're brought to school.

Grant was already stretched in terms of security. Cuts last year from the district reduced its four campus monitors down to two. Those two campus monitors are not armed. And that's for a student population of 1,600.

In addition to Portland Public Schools, the officers also serve Parkrose and David Douglas. They're assigned to high schools and operate out of them, but they also make the rounds at other elementary and middle schools in their coverage area.

In total, cutting them would save $2.1 million.

The bureau says it has its reasons for including these 21 officers on its list of cuts.

The bureau says with the 10-percent budget reduction it was asked to make, the chief had to target services like this that could be accomplished by everyday patrol officers.

So taking resource officers out of schools means beat cops working patrol would respond to calls on campus.

The schools used to pay for these officers but that changed in 2001.

Other proposed public safety cuts include the elimination of the police's property crimes investigation program and its 26 sworn officers; eliminating the mounted patrol unit and its seven sworn officers, and reducing the gang enforcement team by 10 officers.

The fire bureau proposes eliminating seven fire companies or closing seven fire stations and discontinuing its dive service.