Council approves amended agreement that moves police closer to returning to PSHS campus

Police are closer to returning to duty at Palm Springs High School following approval of an amended agreement between the city and Palm Springs Unified School District.

The Palm Springs City Council on Thursday approved an agreement that will ultimately see armed law enforcement return to two city schools. The agreement was not without changes, however, involving the specific funds that would be used to pay for the police presence.

Two weeks ago the Council pulled approval of a proposed agreement with the Palm Springs Unified School District (PSUSD) from its consent agenda to learn more about the School Resource Officer (SRO) program. On Tuesday, the school district’s Board of Education approved paying for officers in schools in four cities, including Palm Springs High School and Desert Learning Academy, which share a campus here.

Under terms of the agreement approved Tuesday and considered Thursday evening, the district would have paid the city $182,000 for an officer to work in the Palm Springs schools, using $100,000 in Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) funds. Those funds are intended to provide services for students in need, not necessarily for the SRO program.

However, some on the City Council said they were uncomfortable with LCAP funds being diverted from students who need additional support. Councilmember Geoff Kors proposed amending the agreement to allow the city to pay $100,000 so that the LCAP funds were not used to reimburse the city. After some discussion, approval of the agreement passed 4-1.

Councilmember Grace Garner was the lone vote against approval. Garner, who represents District 1, said that parents in her district, including many in the African-American community, do not support armed police in city schools.

“I hear about school resource officers from the community members in my district,” she said. “They don’t want school resource officers in the schools. I feel pretty strongly that I need to stand with the parents in my district.”

Under the SRO program, armed officers are assigned to each high school in the district during the school day. Both city police and Riverside County sheriffs deputies fill the roles, depending on the high school location. An additional 45 unarmed campus safety officers work on more than two dozen PSUSD campuses across 214 square miles.

Officers were not slated to return to the schools until elected officials who govern departments that employ them authorized agreements. Thursday’s amended agreement in Palm Springs should ultimately see an officer on the PSHS campus through June of 2022.

Speaking Thursday evening, PSUSD Superintendent Mike Swize explained to city officials that changes to the school district’s SRO program, recommended by the district’s director of security and disaster preparedness, delayed funding for the program this school year. He said the changes were necessary to assure the program promoted overall student wellness, a concern that Council members had when they delayed approval at their regular meeting on September 30.