Lansing City Councilwoman Jody Washington opened up a can worms that had been closed for years. As the council debated 2014's tight budget, Washington suggested police be removed from Lansing schools to save money, a change that Mayor Bernero is strongly opposed to.
"She thought it was the place that we should start, if there are cuts to be made. If we need to cut corners is the term I believe that she used... that we should look at officers in schools, that those are a kind of luxury," said Bernero.
Washington did not return my calls or e-mails to comment on the issue. But according the mayor's proposed 2014 budget 19%, around $37 million, is allotted to police. Some of that money pays for the officers stationed in Lansing's high schools every day.
"When people talk about officers in schools like it's a foreign land.... as though we're spending money out of the budget. The schools are in the city. The schools are part of our community. So why would we not be responsible for public safety in the schools?" said Bernero.
The mayor says that it saves the city money to have officers on site, since LPD respond to less calls at the schools. But schools also have their own security personnel on site.
"They are sworn police officers, but they have more of an administrative roll. They don't have as many resources as we would at the Lansing Police Department, so if there's a larger crime that occurs we can take care of it," said Antonio Sandoval, a Lansing School Resource Police Officer
There will likely be more discussion on the costs before City Council must adopt the final budget by May 20th.
Federal grants help pay for the cost of police in schools. The mayor's office did not provide me with the exact percent or dollar amount of the Lansing police budget that currently pays for these school officers. When we get those numbers, we will share them with you.