A Hollister Police officer will serve as a school resource officer at San Benito High School following adoption of an agreement between the school district and the city of Hollister on Oct. 5. The approximately $436,000 cost of the three-year agreement will be shared by the two entities, with SBHSD paying the city $210,000 total through 2018 and the city budgeting $75,256 per budget year.
Though the agreement was finalized this week, Officer Juan Guevara — a San Benito High School graduate — has been on patrol on campus since school started in August. In recent years, a sheriff's deputy has patrolled the high school in a school resource officer role.
The city of Hollister also has a school resource officer in the Hollister School District, with the city and district sharing the annual $140,000 cost in a two-year agreement. A second SRO is scheduled to begin patrols in the Hollister School District soon, creating a team of three officers at local campuses. The three officers will work as a team.
San Benito High School, according to Hollister Police Chief David Westrick, "would like to emulate the program in their school."
At Monday's City Council meeting, Westrick said of the agreement with the high school, “I don’t think this could come at a more appropriate time,” referring to recent shootings on school campuses.
"It is envisioned that the SRO will work alongside San Benito High School staff to improve the overall safety of the school and act as a back-up instructor for the GREAT (Gang Resistance Education and Training) program," Westrick said in a presentation to the Hollister City Council on Monday. The resource officer would also support ongoing school safety and anti-gang programs locally as part of an agreement Westrick said "will enhance school safety, strengthen the partnership between the police department and the high school, and will benefit the entire city through the deployment of an additional patrol officer."
During school vacations, Westrick pointed out, the officer may be assigned to other duties.
Officer Guevara began his career in Oakland before being hired recently by the Hollister Police Department.
SBHS Human Resources Director Shawn Tennenbaum told staff in an email introducing the officer that Guevara "has done an amazing job working with our students and greater school community. His communication skills and proactive approach are evident each and every day he is on campus. We are extremely happy to have him on campus."
As part of the agreement, the uniformed patrol officer will be assigned full-time to the school beat "except in situations … of extreme emergency." Hollister Police supervisors will have the sole discretion to re-deploy the officer if a critical incident or other emergency arises.
The school beat officer will be responsible for all patrol and response to police calls for service in the school beat area, including traffic, parking control enforcement, preventative patrol, investigation of all crimes occurring on or around the high school campus, as well as assistance with chronic truancy. The officer will also be available to make classroom presentations as requested by school staff and be encouraged "to develop strong working relationships with school staff, students and parents," according to the agreement.
The officer assigned to the school beat will remain an employee of the city, through which the police department will absorb expenses related to the equipping and deploying of the officer — including providing safety equipment, a vehicle and supplies.
The agreement runs through the 2018 school year, with a stipulation that city and school staff will meet at least twice annually to evaluate the program. The two entities will meet no later than Dec. 1, 2017 to decide whether to continue the program in future years.