Phila. School District lays off 90 police officers

Friday, February 03, 2012

Eighty-two Philadelphia School District police officers got pink slips Friday and another nine will be let go at the end of the school year. The layoffs come at a time when the district is trying to get a handle on persistent school violence.

"The environment of the school, when you go in there, the kids are running around in the hallway and it's like they are out of control," said Aisha Campbell of Overbrook.

Campbell is getting ready to pull her tenth grader out of Overbrook High School. It is among the schools that is losing at least one officer.

Already this school year, there have been 58 incidents of a criminal nature here, including three assaults on school police. And Overbrook had recently been taken off the state's persistently dangerous school list.

But the chief safety officer says the layoffs will not make the schools any less safe.

"I'm very confident that we're going to handle our business so far as our coverage of the schools and ensuring a safe environment for all involved," Chief Inspector Myron Patterson told Action News.

Two weeks ago, a blue ribbon commission on school safety reported that the schools are consistently under-reporting incidents and not doing enough to stop the violence.

Five years ago the district had 800 school police officers. Now it's just 386.

The district is facing a $61 million dollar budget deficit. It will save just one percent of that, $617,000, by laying off the 91 per diem officers.

The district says the force is being redeployed to minimize the impact of the layoffs, and the most dangerous schools will maintain full staffing.

"Persistently dangerous schools will stay the same, with the same staffing," said Patterson. "That's ten of the schools that have 'persistently dangerous' status from the state. They will have the same amount, except for one. One of the schools will be less one person."

But some parents say there are better ways to cut costs than cutting cops.

"I think it's wrong, because they need it," said Campbell. "Every evening when you come out here they close it down. I'm not sure how they're going to control the neighborhood or the kids."

The union representing the officers says the layoffs will further damage the already low morale of the force. Union officials are now exploring possible court action to block the layoffs.

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philadelphia, pennsylvania, overbrook, school, children, philadelphia school district, local/state, david henry
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