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City Council Will Fund Armed Officer at Los Al HIgh

Los Alamitos officials voted to pay about 50 percent of the costs of adding a school resource officer to the campus.

City Council Will Fund Armed Officer at Los Al HIgh

Los Alamitos High School students may soon get their own police officer. 

The Los Alamitos City Council voted Tuesday night to fund about half the cost of a school resource officer position at the local high school.

A school resource officer is a law enforcement official assigned to a school or number of schools. Los Alamitos High School had one before budget cuts claimed the position.

The moves comes as  Los Alamitos Unified School District officials look for ways to increase safety in the wake of the  Sandy Hook shooting that left 20 children and six adults dead in Newtown, Conn.

With a 4-0 vote, officials agreed to spend $95,000 of an estimated $190,000 annual cost for salary, benefits, training and equipment of the officer.

Mayor Warren Kusumoto supported the move.

"You can't stop one crazy person, but let's do what we can do,” Kusumoto said. “I'd like to see this proceed with some kind of commitment. Maybe the county kicks in some (money), but my overall support is there."

"I'm not opposed to the program, but there's mixed feelings among the public that this is just an emotional  response to a bigger issue that exists within society,” said Councilman Dean Grose,  “Putting officers in uniforms (on campus) isn't necessarily going to prevent what happened at Sandy Hook or in Colorado and so many other places.”

As it stands, city staff hope Seal Beach would pay 25 percent of the cost of the position, the district would pay 25 percent and Los Al City Council will assume about 50 percent of the costs.

"What we're asking for is a commitment so (the Police) Chief can continue the recruitment process,” said City Manager Angie Avery to the City Council.

City staff are seeking additional funding from the county, but Avery said she was concerned that if funding came from four separate sources than Los Al could lose its supervisory role over the position.

Avery has said she thinks the officer could start work by the new school year in September, but Grose said he thought that wasn’t a realistic time frame, and the Chief agreed, saying it would be difficult to have an officer in place by that time.

In January, school district officials came to the city asking for help to fund a school resources officer position.

According to Los Alamitos Police Department Chief Todd Mattern, the presence of an SRO at Los Alamitos High School, where 3,200 students are enrolled, would provide police with the ability to tend to other needs during the day. Mattern said the schools population is relatively large and attracts frequent calls for traffic issues, criminal issues, parking and disturbances.

Mattern said, in the four or five years the SRO was present on campus, the program was effective. In response, Grose asked Mattern to return next meeting with data showing how many calls the department receives from the school daily, as well as more information on the original SRO program.

Mayor Pro Tem Gerri Graham Mejia was absent.

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