The Clark County Sheriff’s Office is pulling its school resource deputies from five campuses, citing anticipated budget cuts and districts’ remote learning plans.
Officials with the Clark County Sheriff’s Office said Tuesday that school resource deputies will be reassigned to patrol through the remainder of 2020. The deputies usually assigned to Clark County high schools have been on patrol since April 1, shortly after the state announced the closure of school buildings due to the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Sheriff’s deputies were assigned to Columbia River High School and Skyview High School in Vancouver Public Schools, Heritage High School in Evergreen Public Schools, Prairie High School in Battle Ground Public Schools and Hockinson High School.
Chief Criminal Deputy John Horch added that, as the Clark County Council weighs its upcoming budget, the department was looking to save costs in preparation for possible cuts stemming from the pandemic. School districts and the sheriff’s office share the costs of school resource officers’ salaries, an average of about $75,000 an officer, Horch said.
But returning those deputies to patrol helps offset the cost of overtime throughout the department, he said.
“It’s kind of absorbed because we’re back on the road,” Horch said. “Some of that money is offset there.”
Horch added that contracts between the school districts and sheriff’s office will be negotiated heading into 2021.
The Battle Grounds Public Schools directors discussed the news at their Monday meeting, saying they’d found out just hours previously that there would be no sheriff’s deputy stationed at Prairie High School when the new school year starts. The district on Monday approved $95,000 over the next three years to partially cover the cost of a grant-funded Battle Ground Police Department officer assigned to schools within city limits.
The announcement comes against the backdrop of nationwide conversations about racial equity and policing. School resource officers have been criticized by researchers and think tanks as an example of overpolicing in schools that disproportionately harms students of color.
Horch, however, said the decision had nothing to do with those broader issues. He said the department’s relationship with schools is positive and that the decision was strictly based on the needs and resources of the department and districts.
“We’re in unusual times,” Horch said. “Kids aren’t in schools, and we’re all facing budget issues. There was nothing political whatsoever.”
Evergreen Public Schools spokeswoman Gail Spolar echoed Horch.
“We think it is a valuable program, as does the Sheriff’s Department, and we will work together on next steps,” Spolar said by email.