Phoenix Police low on officers, can’t provide enough schools with SROs
There’s a shortage of police officers nationwide, not just Phoenix
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) — Phoenix students and teachers can expect changes to campus security once they’re all back in school after the summer break. Many schools are getting new resource officers due to new funding from the state. However, that won’t be the case for all schools in Phoenix, where the police department doesn’t have enough officers.
“Phoenix is dangerously low on officers right now,” Councilwoman Ann O’Brien said during the July 3rd Phoenix City Council Meeting.
School resource officers, or SROs, should be coming to at least 71 schools in Phoenix this year, but they won’t be. “We are approximately 560 sworn officers short. Unfortunately, we don’t have the capacity to have an SRO for every school that has requested them today,” O’Brien said.
Phoenix Police Executive Assistant Chief Sean Connolly said to provide SROs would mean completely re-ordering how police patrol. “If we are talking 46 positions, that is 10 squads, that would be incredibly challenging,” he said.
Jessica Makowske, the director of Western School of Science and Technology, a Phoenix charter high school, says safety is a top priority for students to graduate on time with college or university as an option. “Replacing the SRO position is not an option for us, given the budget. So we are in wait,” she said.
She also says parents and staff at the school have noticed an uptick in violence nationwide and believed having an SRO on campus could help. “If you are in education right now, we have seen that shift happen across the country. Each time myself or our staff watch an incident happen, it raises the level of concern,” she said.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne proposed the grants earlier this year, and these schools received money for SROs through a grant provided by the Arizona Department of Education. However, he didn’t consider there would be a shortage of police officers. “No, I didn’t anticipate that,” Horne said.
In total, Horne says the grant is $100 million dollars with $80 million provided by the state, which regulates that SROs must be sworn police officers. The remaining $20 million provided by the federal government indicates SROs can be former military or armed guards. “We are doing our best to come up with different kinds of creative solutions, I don’t know if we will be 100% successful or not,” Horne said.
For Makowske, she’s optimistic the issue will be fixed before December when the grant money expires. “We are trying to be understanding, it’s not Phoenix Police’s fault that they don’t have enough officers,” she said.
Phoenix Union High School district had several schools request SROs and said in a statement:
Phoenix Union continues to work in partnership with the City of Phoenix as we prioritize safety in our schools. We are hopeful that we can work together to find solutions that benefit our staff, students, and visitors. The law enforcement shortage facing our city and our nation is a challenge that will require all of those involved to work together on creative solutions. We are grateful for the support that the Phoenix City Council and the Phoenix Police Department have provided as we prepare for a safe 2023-2024 school year.
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