California Assembly Majority Leader Alberto Torrico, whose district includes most of Pleasanton east of downtown, has introduced legislation that would place a uniformed police officer at 100 high schools with the highest crime rates in the state.
The program would be funded through an increase in the vehicle license fee for vehicles valued at $50,000 or more, which would raise an
estimated $10 million annually.
The city of Pleasanton's Police Department, in cooperation with the Pleasanton school district, has long paid for uniformed officers to be stationed full-time at Amnador Valley and Foothill high schools. They have offices at each high school with police covering most major student events, including football games and dances.
Torrico, D-Fremont, said he proposed the bill in response to increasing violence and gang activity at high schools in California.
Torrico said police reports show crime clusters are typically centered around high school campuses, where gangs recruit new members and sell drugs.
A uniformed police officer on campus would act as a deterrent and would also become a part of the school community, Torrico said. The officer's duties would include teaching a class and serving as an unofficial counselor and role model for students.
"We have to make sure our kids are safe, and we need to provide them with a safe environment to learn," Torrico said. "We need to intervene in kids' lives earlier. Once they get into the criminal justice system, it's too late."
The bill would allow the state Department of Education to establish a grant program allowing schools to apply for funding for an
officer. Torrico said he is still considering other funding sources, and estimated the plan would cost about $100,000 per officer.
The pilot program would be launched in January 2011.
The Department of Education would be charged with selecting the schools, giving priority to campuses with high crime rates. School districts would be responsible for selecting the police officers.
Torrico announced the initiative at Independence High School in San Jose Tuesday, accompanied by his brothers Fabian Torrico, a San Jose police officer, and Cesar Torrico, principal at Franklin Elementary School.
He said he would consider expanding the program to middle schools eventually.