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Jun 15, 2010 8:23 PM by Monica Quintero

Santa Maria schools losing valuable officer

Santa Maria schools will be losing a valuable asset when it comes to keeping campuses safe. Santa Maria police say next school year, there will be one less resource officer.

A resource officer is also a Santa Maria police officer. They're part of the department's community outreach program and are specifically assigned to work on local campuses. It's a dramatic cut, as resource officers are already spread thin.

Currently, Santa Maria schools are quiet, schools out for the summer. But when students come back there will be a big change, there will only be three resource officers. Those three are responsible for patrolling around 20 local campuses. Valerie Robles, parent, said, "That's very sad, very disappointing to me as a mother." Robles has four children who attend Santa Maria schools including a 16-year-old at Pioneer Valley High School.
"We have a lot of schools around us and three isn't going to be enough, no way," said Robles.

Dee Ringstead, Pioneer Valley High School Principal, said, "We have 2,600 students here, that's a small community." This principal says having a uniformed officer on campus makes it much easier to address serious issues. Ringstead said, "They could deal anything from runaway students to drugs." While the resource officer deals with criminal matters, their role is even bigger than that. They're very hands on with students - mentoring and counseling them. "The students know who they are, they students go to them on their own. There's just a big help to the school," said Ringstead.

Robles said, "I'd rather have four than three officers. So why cut it, it's better to protect our children." Protection she says is greatly needed to keep students safe. Police say the bottom line, these tough economic times are forcing them to make difficult decisions.

They're hoping to reinstate that resource officer position in the future. That issue will be discussed at the Santa Maria City Council meeting Tuesday night.

It's one of a few positions that could be suspended within the Santa Maria police department's community services unit.

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