Oakland may cut some school police officers


The Oakland Unified School District has just under 100 school security officers (SSO), located primarily at middle and high schools throughout the city.

"Looking out for outsiders, making sure kids go to and from class safely and break up fights," Oakland School Police Chief Peter Sarna said.

The SSOs are under the command of the Oakland School Police Department. Oakland Unified is the only district in Northern California with its own police force.

Seventeen positions may be eliminated.

"The parents are going to be worried, because it is very dangerous," parent Veronica Leon said.

Tuesday, Oakland school police responded quickly when a first-grader at Prescott Elementary School unknowingly brought a loaded gun to school in a backpack.

"The teacher recognized it immediately as a handgun, right away took it away from the kid and we are pursuing a number of leads to try to determine who placed that gun in the backpack," Sarna said.

Daniel Letatau is a former student at Castlemont High School. He knows how important it is to have an extra set of eyes.

"It's sad enough that if they do cut the security jobs I think the crime will go up more, kids will break out fighting, other kids from other high schools," Letatau said.

But the school district spokesperson says in order to balance the upcoming budget they need to close a $30 million deficit. The district is proposing eliminating 115 non-teaching positions.

"I think the feeling was that this was preferable as opposed to having deeper layoffs amongst the faculty district wide," Troy Flint said.

If the board goes ahead with plans to cut the security officers, Sarna says he will begin transferring some officers to those schools that need them the most.

One school board member said there may be hope for a last minute deal to save some of the positions but would not elaborate on details.

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