Officers plan criticized

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By David Giuliani

Las Vegas Police Chief Gary Gold said some people are opposing the city’s efforts to lobby state lawmakers for money to pay for officers to work in both local school districts.

He said he would try to address concerns at the monthly meeting of the city’s Youth Commission at 6 p.m. today at the recreation center. Joann Marquez of the city’s community development department said some of the youth members had questions about the proposal.

“They want to know how it’s going to affect them,” she said.

Pat Leahan of the Las Vegas Peace and Justice Center said she was among residents with concerns. She said studies in other areas have found that hiring resource officers in schools has resulted in more lawsuits and discrimination of such groups as special-needs students.

She said the funds being requested would be much better spent on prevention programs and restorative justice.

Also, City Councilwoman Diane Moore, the Youth Commission’s adviser, said she wants the voice of local youth to be heard when it comes to putting resource officers in the schools.

She said the issue never went before either the city Public Safety Committee or the City Council.

“It didn’t go through the proper channels,” she said.

State Sen. Pete Campos, D-Las Vegas, has proposed a bill to appropriate $500,000 for the next fiscal year to provide the Police Department with school resource officers for both the Las Vegas City Schools and West Las Vegas districts.

The Senate Public Affairs Committee has recommended its passage. Now it’s headed to the Finance Committee.

Modeled after the Farmington schools, the legislation would bring seven resource officers to each district as well as a coordinator for the whole program, Gold said.

“We’re trying to befriend the kids. We want them to understand that we are public servants and that we want to help them and protect them,” the chief said. “Some people are misinterpreting what this bill is all about. It’s amazing people are opposed to it.”

Gold, a West Las Vegas school board member, has gone before the boards of both districts, where he has received support. In fact, Campos is the City Schools superintendent.

He said Officer Shawn Montoya, who is the department’s grant writer, has gone into both high schools and sought petition signatures in support of getting resource officers. He also said he ran into a student in Santa Fe who was going to speak against the bill, and e-mails have been sent to lawmakers as part of the same effort.

“I told (the student) we needed to sit down and talk about this,” he said.

Gold said some believe that hiring the resource officers means that the current security personnel will lose their jobs, but he said the department simply wants to add more people to improve student safety.