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Glendale police, city and school officials address need for school resource officers

Posted at 10:38 AM, Mar 23, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-27 22:51:23-04

Officials from Glendale police, school officials and the City of Glendale spoke Friday about the urgent need for more school resource officers. 

"Nationally since February 14 [Parkland, FL shooting] we have had 1,200 incidents and threats to schools," said Glendale Police Chief Rick St. John. "I can tell you here in Glendale I believe that number is closer to a dozen just for our city alone."

Because of this, police are hoping to ease fears and increase safety on school campuses. 

While Glendale police already have school resource officers and officers dedicated to working with schools, they're working to have school resource officers at every high school campus in the city of Glendale, and they hope to do it by Monday.

Glendale Mayor Jerry Weiers was on hand Friday at the press conference as well.

"At a time when a lot of people are doing a lot of talking about how to protect our schools it's incredibly important to point out that our city, and our police department are not just talking," Weiers said. "We are taking action."

Not only will those officers provide safety and resources for campuses, but it will also help out with their community policing initiatives. 

"We can either sit back and wait and see what everybody else is going to do and then react along with everyone else, or we can be pro-active as a city," Chief St John said. "People deserve to feel safe when they go to school, when they go to work."

The city estimates the total price tag for all of the resource officers will be $750,000. City leaders say they'll pay for it by not filling some vacant positions and giving smaller raises to some employees. 

At least one Glendale City Council member is now questioning the city's quick action, saying it may have been motivated by emotion.

Councilman Jamie Aldama who represents the Ocotillo District said there should have been more transparency and more public input before the city made this move.  

He stressed while he supported the need for school resource officers, he's been hearing concerns from some of his constituents.

"I believe the community was blindsided by it," Aldama said.  

"They're the taxpayers they're going to pay for this, and the question still remains how are we going to pay for this? We're in the budget session now, so we don't even know how," Aldama said.

He also said he had heard concerns from school officials at elementary, middle, and charter schools questioning why no officers would be dedicated to serving their campuses as well.

"I feel that all of the stakeholders should've been brought to the table for a discussion first," Aldama said.

Glendale police said their focus at the schools would be to build trust, mentor, and guide the students.

Officer Nicholas Lively who was just starting his first week at Independence High School said the big challenges they faced was the use of social media by students.  

His goal was to be visible on the high school campus and to let students know his door was always open to hearing from them.

"I'm not here with the intent of giving anyone a hard time, but just, there's Officer Lively you know. My thing is big visibility for both students and parents," Lively said.

He added that he had also helped students get counseling while he worked as a school resource officer at a different location. 

"They may be embarrassed or afraid to ask for it but you kind of show them, there's no shame in asking for help," Lively said.

The sergeant in charge of the school resource officers said he was awestruck when the Glendale police chief informed him they would be beefing up the staff.

"They have heard the young people say they want school safety, and one of those primary things is getting an officer in there," said Sgt. Phillip Washington.

He said over the years he had seen many officers go the extra mile to help students, even those who were not in trouble.

Officer Lively had been touched by a grandmother who told him she and her grandchildren were sleeping on an air mattress or on the cold floor as they did not have any furniture.  

With the help of other officers, they arranged a day to deliver furniture to the woman's apartment.

Other school resource officers had helped students get scholarships, helped them buy tuxedo's for prom, and helped them get athletic gear when they couldn't afford it.

"I don't want people to always think we're going to arrest them. We are there to build relationships," Washington said.