School resource officer off duty this year
State funding cuts means Williams Unified School District will operate without law enforcement on campuses
WILLIAMS - The Williams Unified School District (WUSD) heads into this school year without a dedicated School Resource Officer (SRO) thanks to cuts in funding at the state level.
Officer Bob McCarty will not be on WUSD campuses this year. He said grant funding statewide has been cut back every year beginning several years ago.
"When I first started five years ago, it was like about 250 officers and that's been cut to like 110 across the state and this time, we believe it has been cut in half again, somewhere around 50 or 55 officers," McCarty said.
McCarty said with so many districts in the state facing drug and gang problems, WUSD falls to the bottom of the list for SRO funding.
"One of the problems if you do too good a job in your school district it begins to look like you don't need it," he said. "We actually had a compliment paid to us. We virtually have no drugs in our schools, or cases of drugs. We run our canines through on sweeps and don't get any hits. We have once in awhile a pocket knife on campus but no real weapons."
Williams Elementary-Middle School Principal Rachal Savage said she is disappointed the district does not have an SRO working in the district this year, adding McCarty provided a positive presence in her school as well as excellent educational programs.
"We're going to have to make due with the staff we have to provide adequate supervision and rely more on law enforcement to help us with the needs that we do have," she said.
Savage added the district did file an appeal in an attempt to keep an SRO on staff although that appeal was denied.
"I think it just comes down to the fact that we just don't have as big of a problem with gangs and drugs and fights that some of the bigger districts do," Savage said. "Arguably, maybe that's because we have had an SRO in the building."
McCarty said on rare occasions a fight breaks out but none are gang related. Larger inner city schools will be assigned the remaining available officers.
SRO's also fulfill an educational component while in schools.
"One of the big benefits to the program is you teach 90 hours per semester," McCarty said. "Law related education and it's stuff these kids don't know. You teach constitutional law, criminal law and drug enforcement and avoidance. All that. They're not getting that aspect."
Students will also miss out on an important opportunity to interact with a law enforcement officer in a positive, educational environment.
"They're not seeing an officer as a human being. As role model," McCarty said. "Because, I'm sure it changes their attitudes if you get the right cop in the schools."