Palm Springs defers decision to school resources manager

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Palm Springs City Council on Thursday chose not to approve a new contract with the Palm Springs Unified School District that would fire a full-time police officer on the Palm Springs High School and Desert Learning Academy campuses.

The contract will be revisited at the next city council meeting on Oct. 14, when the council hopes to hear a presentation from the school district and more information from the police department on the responsibilities and value of a school resource officer.

The contract had been included in the board’s approval timeline – essentially a bunch of contracts and other simple items that are usually approved together in one vote without debate. Board member Geoff Kors requested that the topic of school resource officers be removed from the consent calendar and considered a separate item.

City manager Justin Clifton said the school resources manager’s contract was included in the consent schedule because the program dates back almost 30 years and has rarely been questioned. A report from city staff said the program dates back 39 years.

Kors expressed concern that there may be unexamined changes to the new contract that merit more discussion with the school district after the school district announced it would rework its campus safety program over the summer amid questions about its effectiveness.

Schools in Palm Springs, Cathedral City, Desert Hot Springs, and Rancho Mirage started the school year without the police on campus.

Desert Hot Springs Police Chief Jim Henson, left, Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco, and Cathedral City Police Chief George Crum discuss the PSUSD Board of Education's decision to suspend his school resources manager program on August 5, 2021.

The school district’s decision drew fire from Desert Hot Springs and Cathedral City Police Chiefs and Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco, saying it endangered students. The Sheriff’s Department provides policing services to Rancho Mirage, including the School Resources Officer at Rancho Mirage High School.

Others, however, said having a police officer on campus makes some students, especially students of color, feel less connected to their school or even in danger.

Levaughn Smart, director of safety and disaster preparedness at Palm Springs Unified, said Wednesday that the main points of negotiation with the cities were linked to the “scope of services and training” for each agent.

However, an initial review by The Desert Sun comparing the language of the new contract to the previous contract finds no change in the scope of services of the School Resources Officer.

Police chief says SRO is helping investigative efforts

Speaking to City Council Thursday, Acting Palm Springs Police Chief Melissa Desmarais said: “

Desmarais also said the school’s resource officer is helping the city advance other policing work.

“We have experienced and investigated violent crime that has occurred throughout the city of Palm Springs that has a connection to the Palm Springs High School campus, and having a school resource manager on campus not only helps us establish and to build relationships with the students there. it can help us in our investigative efforts, but also just build a relationship with the faculty and staff there who can also help us achieve this goal, ”she said.

Kors wanted more information on how the officer program worked.

“Since the school district initially said they didn’t think this was the right model and the right effectiveness, it might help if it came back without consent and the school district somehow explained their thinking. about it so that we fully understand how they see it moving forward, ”Kors said.

Councilmember Grace Garner said she would like to see statistics related to the program.

“How many arrests have been made on campus and why? When are they calling parents? What are the demographics?” she asked.

The most important change to the contract is the negotiated salary.

The agreed salary for the Palm Springs officer to be paid by the school district if the contract is approved is $ 182,209 – the highest rate the district has paid for a Palm Springs officer in the history of the program.


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