On January 6th, 2011, all forty-eight Phoenix Police School Resource Officers met with Lt. Coley of CRB about the impending transfer of SROs to the Community Relations Bureau. The purpose of the meeting was to explain the rationale behind the move and address concerns that officers might have. Lt. Coley was there with the four School Resource Officer Sergeants, Sgt. Butcher, Sgt. Hernandez, Sgt. Wallace and Sgt. Wilson and the SRO coordinator Sgt. Young. PLEA attended as well to address any concerns of SRO members and insure the best possible outcome.
The primary purpose of the SRO centralization is to attempt to save as many SRO positions as possible. Three years ago our department had more than 100 SROs that were primarily funded by Safe Schools grants awarded by the Arizona Department of Education. This year Phoenix Police has 48 SROs. Since Safe Schools grants pay for roughly 70% of an officer’s salary and benefits the total in savings to our budget is around $3.8 million. If these grants are lost, the city will have to pick up the costs. Considering the potential negative impact on the budget, it was apparent to management that every effort should be made to save these positions.
The supervisory structure was the primary concern for the Department of Education. It is important to have SROs supervised by a first line supervisor that understands the role of the SRO and also has a excellent rapport with the schools and districts. After the recent rebid some SROs were assigned to patrol squads and some SRO sergeants were tasked with multiple supervisory roles. Centralization of the SROs was the answer to this morass of supervisory structure.
Centralization, understandably, did raise concerns with many SROs. The primary question was what would happen to them if their grants were not renewed by the Department of Education. They also had concerns about their status as a patrol specialty position and their ability to transfer within the precinct. Many of the SROs specifically bid for precincts near their homes as part of the rebid, and now with centralization faced the real possibility of not only losing their grant funded position but also their ability to transfer back into their precinct.
Fortunately, Terry Mills a PLEA representative and SRO was already thinking of a solution to this predicament. After the informational meeting, Terry and I met with Lt. Coley, Sgt. Young and the SRO Sergeants. We explained the concerns and offered to draft a sidebar agreement to hopefully alleviate the concerns of the SROs and protect their ability to transfer should their grants be dropped. The SRO sergeants had already raised many of the same concerns and all parties agreed in principle that the SROs did need protection.
The end result was a sidebar agreement with management that not only protected the integrity of the SRO program and insured the continuity of the grants for this year, but also protected the SROs. Because of this agreement, SROs will retain the right to transfer as an in house transfer until 30 days after the awarding of the DOE grants. On day 31 they will have to abide by the current transfer policy and transfer as anyone else would from a specialty position. Any SRO that opts to transfer at this time will have to remain in place at their current school until the end of the school year, which is generally around mid may.
This agreement would not have been possible without the support of management and the foresight shown by Lt. Coley and the SRO coordinator and SRO Sergeants as well as command staff and upper management. This agreement also underscores the success that is achieved when we are trying to reach a common goal and work in concert with all the interested parties.