San Bernardino City Unified School District (SBCUSD) employs its own police department to keep its 53,000 students safe as they travel to school, attend their classes, catch up with friends and then go home again. But just what do their police officers do all day, you might ask?
SBCUSD Officer Alberto Sandoval took Highland Community News for a ride on Monday, Aug. 19, to show us where they go and how they do their jobs. Sandoval has served on the force for two and a half years.
"We are responsible for over 80 schools and school district sites: We maintain the protection of the kids, staff members, pretty much monitoring kids to and from school. That's our main function, to make sure the kids are safe in the school and around the schools."
In the morning, Sandoval ensures kids get to school safe and sound along his route. In the afternoon, Sandoval patrols several sites as school lets out. He observes places where students are known to gather for fights, but also observes vehicle traffic.
"The strategy behind is mainly to monitor traffic, make sure the flow of traffic is flowing as smoothly as possible and making sure there's no hazards between the vehicles and pedestrians, which is the kids walking around on the way home."
Sandoval has observed that some students fight off campus to avoid discipline by school administration. He chooses strategic locations around students' favorite gathering spots, "for their protection so we can quickly stop that altercation from occurring."
Protecting school campuses is also a priority, with school resource officers (SRO) reporting 24 hours a day, seven days a week to protect all district property from trespassing and vandalism.
He has the capacity to issue citations, but uses it sparingly.
"We have the option to use our discretion to issue somebody a citation. At a school, a lot of times it's a parent picking up the kids or dropping off their kids at school. We're not out to give everybody a ticket, we just want parents to be more aware of their speed, safe [turns]. That way, there's no kids getting hit."
This holds true after 14-year-old Jade Maldonado was killed by a hit-and-run driver near Pacific High School last September. The driver involved in the incident was arrested in October 2018.
"That was bad," Sandoval acknowledged. "That's just pretty much what we try to prevent and make sure these kids are safe on their routes home."
In addition to duties at school, SBCUSD officers often end up involved in family drama at home and on campus.
"A little bit of everything from domestic violence to physical altercations, verbal altercations at the schools, either with parents or students, staff, just all of the above."
Compared to utilizing city police services, Sandoval says the effectiveness of having a school police department justifies the added expense.
"The benefit of having a school police department is that our function is primarily to support and have the officers at all our schools throughout the district," says Sandoval. "We have a school resource officer assigned to each one of our high schools. Those SROs are also responsible for the middle schools and elementariness in the area. Whatever issues some of those elementaries or middle schools [have], we will respond to those as well."
Having the same jurisdiction, SBCUSD officers can respond to calls faster than the city’s officers according to Sandoval.
"We're already either at a school or near… Most of our SROs and our patrol officers are in the areas of all the schools.”
Despite the serious nature of their work, Sandoval isn't above greeting students he works with with a smile and a high-five.
"I just walk around, try to be approachable to the kids. A lot of them will come up and start talking. I try to not get too much into their 'bubble' and just let them come up to me. If they want to engage in a conversation, I'm more than happy to [talk]."
With kids of his own at home, Sandoval is driven to protect and serve the city's kids just like his own.
"It's a great job, at the end of the day; We do protect one of the most important things, which is the kids' education. Most of us have kids."
Even with current coverage, the department has need for additional officers. Interested candidates should go to sbcusd.com and click on 'Employment Opportunities.'