OAKLAND (BCN) — Oakland Police Chief Anthony Batts is heading to Washington, D.C., where he will lobby for federal funding for a pilot program to place officers in four of the city’s middle schools.
The program, which needs $5.5 million to $6 million in funding, would place six officers at each of the four campuses, police spokesman Officer Jeff Thomason said. The schools participating would be Madison, Westlake, Roosevelt and Frick middle schools.
The idea is to make schools safer, steer kids away from crime and build positive relationships between police and the city’s young people, Thomason said.
“Statistics have shown that kids are very vulnerable at that age where they start to either go into a gang or they start straying from school,” Thomason said.
“We’re trying to have an impact at that age,” he said.
Batts is leaving the Bay Area Tuesday night and will be in Washington, D.C., for two days, Thomason said.
He will meet with the offices of Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer as well as U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, Assistant Attorney General Laurie Robinson, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Roy Austin and others, Thomason said.
The idea for the pilot program was developed in recent weeks, Thomason said.
Batts said at a recent CompStat crime tracking meeting that he and Oakland Unified School District Superintendent Tony Smith believe that reaching young people is key to reducing crime.
“They have similar philosophies,” school district spokesman Troy Flint said Tuesday.
“The idea is to strengthen bonds between police and students,” Flint said.
The pilot program would build on existing programs in Oakland schools, including the O.K., or “Our Kids,” program and the G.R.E.A.T., or Gang Resistance Education and Training, program.
The four middle schools that would participate are spread out across the city, Flint said.
“We chose schools in neighborhoods where there have been some issues related to violence,” he said.
The officers in the schools would spend some of their time working with kids one-on-one, Thomason said. In addition, community members would volunteer their time to act as mentors at those campuses.
At the CompStat meeting, held on Nov. 18, Batts asked those in attendance to sign up to spend an hour or more each week meeting with a child at one of the schools.
If the pilot program is successful, the goal is to expand it to all Oakland Unified schools, starting with middle schools, Batts said.
Thomason said the program wouldn’t take any officers off the streets; instead, if funding is found, it could allow the department to hire back some of the officers who were laid off over the summer, he said.
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