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PSUSD & valley law enforcement agencies continue negotiations over whether to keep school resource officers

KESQ

A highly contentious debate over whether police-trained school resource officers should be patrolling at Palm Springs Unified School District schools was addressed at a meeting Thursday morning. The school district and the Palm Springs Police Department met to negotiate the outcome, which is still ongoing.

In a statement Thursday afternoon the Palm Springs Unified School District released a statement: "I want to thank our law enforcement partners for taking the time to meet with us today," said Mike Swize, Ed.D., the superintendent of the Palm Springs Unified School District. "Our time as well spent and quite productive. With a strengthened relationship and all parties focused on the shared goal of doing what is in the best interest of the health and safety of our students, we are moving in a positive direction. I am hopeful we can bring our agreements with our partner agencies to the Board of Education in the near future."

So far, a total of four police-trained school resource officers are off the job at Palm Springs Unified as the new school year kicked off on August 4.

District Superintendent Dr. Mike Swize said Tuesday the officers have not been removed, but rather framed the changes as a "rebuilding" of the school resource program.

As of Thursday, Palm Springs and Desert Hot Springs Police did not want to respond for our requests for comment.

Cathedral City Police Chief George Crum released a statement to News Channel 3 the read: "This morning I met with PSUSD Superintendent Dr. Mike Swize and other law enforcement stakeholders to discuss the School Resource Officer program in the district. The meeting was productive and demonstrated we share the same common values of ensuring the health and safety of the students, faculty, and visitors within the Palm Springs Unified School District campuses. This meeting was a monumental step in the right direction as we continue to work with the district moving into the future."

In a statement from the Riverside County Sheriff's Department, a spokesperson wrote:

"We would like to thank the leadership of the Palm Springs Unified School District for their time today in discussing options for the immediate return of the School Resource Officer’s into the High Schools of PSUSD. Law enforcement is committed to protecting the safety of every student and are hopeful a finalized agreement will be reached in the near future.  The role of the School Resource Officer is a vital component of ensuring the highest safety measures are in place for our children while on campus.  We are confident that together we can continue to provide a safe environment for students to thrive."

PSUSD Executive Security Director Levaughn Smart said the officers were sometimes taking action on school level violations that broke rules but weren't criminal.

The full-time officers, who were assigned to high schools in Palm Springs, Desert Hot Springs, Cathedral City and Rancho Mirage, were temporary pulled from their posts at the start of this year amid concerns about the disciplinary roles they were playing.

News Channel 3 has heard from parents of minority students in the district who said their students' interactions with school resource officers are contributing to growing tensions between communities of color and police. 

"Minority students tend to be afraid of having contact with police officers, simply because police officers represent someone who possibly could have took their brother, their sister their mother away," said PSUSD parent Charlie Erwin.

Other parents have voiced their frustrations, with one mother urging school officials to bring back the officers before "something terrible happens."

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Shelby Nelson

Shelby Nelson is a News Reporter for KESQ News Channel 3. She joined our team in September 2019. Learn more about Shelby here.

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