School safety and active shooters on school campuses is on many people’s minds lately. Parents rightfully expect their vulnerable children will be kept safe at school. Faculty rightfully expect to be safe at work.
So what is Sheriff Scott Jones doing for Sacramento County’s “soft target” schools to keep students and faculty safe and deter school shootings? Not much. (To give Jones some credit, he did recently give one “active shooter” presentation at an affluent local church so he could meet potential donors and use church property for his political campaign. Though no schools or even school officials were told about or invited to the presentation.)
Here is a look at the facts:
A change in California law last year (AB 424, McCarty, D-Sacramento), now prohibits any law-abiding CCW licensee from possessing their firearm anywhere on school campus, even to drop-off or pick-up their child. Only law enforcement officers may now carry or possess a firearm on any school campus, even if School officials know about the CCW licensee and approve.
Right now Sacramento area schools must use education dollars to pay the Sacramento Sheriff’s Department to have a deputy assigned to a school campus. At a cost of $85 per hour per deputy, there are not enough deputies. Called “School Resource Officers” (SRO), each school deputy is presently splitting his or her time between 2 high schools and 2 or 3 middle schools every day.
At best, under the current model, each school has a SRO deputy available to them 20-25% of the time. That $85 hourly school expense is considered to be a “security contract”, which is the same type of contract through which neighborhoods can hire a Sheriff’s deputy for private patrol.
To compare and contrast the current School Resource Officer $85 per hour contract costs, the average hourly wage for any normal Sacramento Sheriff’s deputy who is out on official country patrol is $32-37 per hour. This patrol deputy wage is far less than half of what Sacramento schools currently pay the Sheriff’s Department SRO staff. ($37 versus $85 per hour)
The cost comparison means if the Sacramento Sheriff’s Department simply assigned an on-duty deputy to each school, then for the same money already being paid each year, schools would benefit by having twice as many deputies to actively patrol our schools.
But what is the strategy for the 75-80% of the time when no deputy is available, but there is a school emergency, like an active shooter? Each school’s alternative strategy is to have some (unarmed) school official in a suit to go out and confront the shooters, and try to distract the armed criminal.
But wait, schools also have cameras to record most of whatever happens!
Add to all of this the fact that school safety deputies can at any time be pulled away from the school(s) for official County calls for service out in the community, even though they are technically working on their official “days off” and getting paid as “other income” through the school district’s security contract.
With these security contracts for SROs, the Sheriff’s Department also handles all of the money. The Sheriff’s Department then takes its nearly 56% profit, resulting in a new revenue stream for the Department to spend on whatever it wants.
While each year Sacramento’s Sheriff Scott Jones tries to claim he “saves the County money” by returning unused budget funds to the County. But Jones is not properly using the Department’s money to improve patrols and keep our schools safe. Now, with 5 months still to go this fiscal year, he is already over-budget on expenses.
Sacramento ranks lower in deputies-per-resident ratio than the national average. There are huge overtime and “other pay” costs each year as deputies run from call to call and are overworked. The Sheriff’s top-brass managers are doubling their salaries through “other income” cushy “additional responsibilities” scams, and over-time for hundreds of deputies (and Sergeants) allows many deputies to make upwards of $200,000 per year.
Last month the Sheriff’s Department went over-budget by $400,000, and the Sheriff’s Academy is at risk of not graduating its next cadet class because money to pay instructors has been siphoned off to pay for other non-academy department expenses.
What happens now if there is an “active shooters” on a school campus? Students are told to “shelter in place” within classrooms that have their outer walls full of glass windows, flimsy doors skinned with thin sheet metal, and exposed locks which can be defeated by a single shot.
On school perimeters, cyclone fencing is sometimes installed with padlocked gates so as to prevent someone from walking onto campus. Those padlocks are also defeated by a bullet, or cut with bolt cutters, and the gates can be breached. Or the cyclone fencing is attached by 10-gauge aluminum wire that can be cut with any diagonal cutter.
A Sheriff who spares no expense when it comes to his own safety, with two full-time armed deputies assigned to go everywhere with him. But a Sheriff who cannot properly prepare for safe schools or future budgetary needs in his own Department.
The Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department needs a complete leadership overhaul, beginning with who is elected as Sheriff. It is going to take someone from the outside to come in and clean up the department. An insider, who has been part of the problem, can never be expected to bring about the changes necessary to bring forth the integrity, transparency, and equality to the Department that Sacramento taxpayers deserve.