A California school board voted unanimously last week to bring police back to campuses, just a few months after it decided to remove law enforcement from school grounds, arguing at the time that the money should be spent on student services, like mental health.
During a special meeting last Wednesday, the Pomona Unified school board approved a service agreement with the Pomona Police Department to hire two campus safety resource officers – as the district looks at “reimaging and retooling” the role of police, Superintendent Richard Martinez said, according to the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin.
The agreement, which still needs to be approved by the Pomona city council, comes months after protests across the country called for defunding the police. But since students returned for in-person learning after COVID-19 shutdowns, schools are now dealing with fights and issues that police officers would typically handle.
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“Please do not be bullied by a certain number of people who have the audacity to say that cops don’t keep kids safe,” M. Joyce Baker-Smith told the school board, according to Los Angeles’s KABC-TV. “They do keep kids safe. They keep us all safe.”
The officers will serve as “law-related educators, problem-solvers, and community liaisons,” the station reported. A Pomona police spokesperson said the officers will receive specific training related to their assignment.
The conversation to bring police back grew following an Oct. 15 shooting near Pomona High School, which left one person injured.
“We need different types of help. Half of the students seem traumatized about the incident, the other half are just numb to it,” said Pomona High School substitute teacher Pablo Padilla, who was in favor of increasing mental health services, according to the paper. “It’s very daunting being in my position because I do care about the district, it’s my community and I want to make sure things get better.”
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Others spoke out against the decision to hire the officers, including a Pomona social action group that argued the Pomona Unified School District rushed the item by announcing the meeting just 24 hours prior.
“We feel that PUSD leaders were irresponsible in their actions, ignoring research and refusing to analyze the impact of (school resource officers and Pomona Police Department) on Pomona youth in years past,” the Gente Organizada said in a statement, according to the Bulletin. “Our community deserves better from our leadership. It is our hope that PUSD takes the necessary steps to truly invest in restorative justice alternatives and away from punitive strategies that harm our kids.”
The Pomona Unified School District issued a statement to FOX 11 Los Angeles following the decision.
“Pomona Unified School District enjoys a positive and productive relationship with the local LA County Sheriff’s Department related to our Diamond Bar Schools and an equally beneficial relationship with Pomona PD for our Pomona-based school sites. Our goal has always been, and will continue to be, the overall health, wellness, and safety of children,” the statement read.
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“Our law enforcement partners greatly aid our mutual efforts in ensuring that each child within PUSD enjoys his/her/their right to a quality education free from threats to their safety. To that end, we will continue to work with our local agencies to help us better protect and serve the families in our Diamond Bar and Pomona communities,” it added.
Pomona is about 30 miles east of downtown Los Angeles.