Loss of Janesville school officers will be felt: Police chief
The Janesville School Board on Tuesday cut the three positions to save $125,000, which the district has paid to the city to cover half the cost of the officers during the school year.
Police Chief Dave Moore said the result would be fewer police officers in the city.
The school officer program is important to the department, Moore said.
“We always believe if we can work with kids when they’re young, it avoids a lot more serious issues later in life,” Moore said. “It’s with deep regret that we see this program come to an end.”
The schools will lose programming and a high level of service, Moore said. The officers who were assigned to the schools responded to any incidents, which resulted in 212 arrests in 2009-2010.
But officers also gave counseling sessions for 250 children and taught 174 classes of Project Northland, a program about alcohol. They visited elementary schools and provided programs on such topics as gun safety and civics.
Officers in the schools gleaned information on gangs and other crime among youth. Moore believes that youth confidence in the officers is one reason the city’s reports of sexual assault and abuse are high.
Stationing police officers in schools also has a longer-reaching effect, Moore said.
An FBI study several years ago investigated what leads someone to kill a police officer.
“They didn’t find many trends except that those people who were able to kill police officers either never had contact with a police officer personally, or they never had a positive contact with police officers,” Moore said. “That’s the one trend they found in all police killings.
“Our efforts in the schools … certainly directly addressed that issue.”
Moore said his department would meet with school district administration this summer to explain when police officers should be called.
Moore said he has kept vacant two officer positions that should have been filled months ago because he anticipated the school cuts. Eliminating those two positions would come close to covering the $125,000 loss of reimbursement from the school district, he said.
That means the department is losing two officer positions even before the start of 2012 budget discussions, Moore said.
“We know it’s a very difficult budget year, and any sizeable budget cut in the police department means bodies,” Moore said.
The department is down two more positions the city council asked Moore to leave open until July 1.
Over the years, the city has lost ground on police officer staffing, Moore said. Janesville should have 111 sworn officers based on its population, he said.
In the early 2000s, the city had about 1.76 officers per thousand population, Moore said.
Assuming the two open positions are filled July 1, the city will have 102 sworn officers, which would be about 1.64 officers per thousand. That’s lower than the average of 1.78 among Janesville’s peer cities, he said. Madison has 1.9 per thousand, and Milwaukee is about double Janesville’s at 3.2 officers per thousand.
Despite the smaller numbers, Moore said, crime in Janesville is dropping.
“We are driving our crime rate down and doing significant special programming,” Moore said.
Special programs focus on gangs, drugs and domestic violence.
Officers still are able to answer emergency calls, Moore said, but residents must wait longer for officers to respond to non-emergency calls. It also means less traffic enforcement and community policing and more overtime.
Last updated: 5:14 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012