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Goldstein Investigates: Rise In Violence At LAUSD After School Police Cutbacks

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) - In the three months since Los Angeles Unified School District students have been back on campus, a CBS2 News investigation found concerns about increased crime since the school board defunded the police department.

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(credit: CBS)

One-third of the school police budget was cut as part of the "defund the police" movement. Officers aren't stationed at schools, and some parents are worried about safety.

The videos obtained by CBS2 Investigates reveal what some parents are troubled about.

One video shows a 15-year-old girl knocked to the ground and allegedly assaulted by students outside the school.

"I'm like what happened to my daughter? Please help me find out what's going on," said Brittany Jackson, who arrived to pick her daughter up just moments after this incident occurred. "This is horrific, just to see that on school grounds."

Jackson said her daughter suffered a broken nose and a concussion, and now she's worried about her two kids at the school.

"I don't even feel safe sending them. I have to worry eight hours a day. Is my children going to make it back from school?" Jackson said.

That's not the only school fight caught on camera either.

Through police sources, CBS2 Investigates obtained video of fights inside classrooms and outside on school grounds. Some have said the rise in fights are related to a cut back in school police.

At a contentious school board meeting in February, the board voted to slash the school police budget by $25 million, cutting 133 positions from the school police, including 70 sworn officers, leaving just 211 officers on the force.

The board voted to use some of that money to hire counselors and social workers to try and prevent violence.

Joseph Williams is with Black Lives Matter.

"Police on campuses have a hugely negative effect on students of color," he said.

However, an LAUSD principal who only agreed to talk if their face and voice were disguised said the schools feel less safe. Asked if the school police are missed on campus, the principal didn't hesitate.

"Tremendously. It's a sense of safety," the principal said.

CBS2 Investigates also asked if the principal is concerned with personal safety as well.

"Constantly now. You think about it when you go to work, while you're at work and going home. Is this worth it? They're putting students, faculty, parents at risk," the principal said.

CBS2 asked the school police for statistics on crimes, but they haven't responded to our repeated requests.

However, police sources have shared some crime reports, which show, for example, a criminal threat at Franklin High, assault and batter of a school employee at Marshal High and a sex crime at Muir Middle School.

According to a bulletin from the Associated Administrators of LA, a union that represents administrators in the district, from August to October of 2021, there have been 108 assaults, with 16 students requiring transport to the hospital.

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Police sources also add there have been 44 weapons recovered, including five handguns and 32 knives, and it's not just a matter of not enough officers to patrol.

"Our officers have been told, correct, to stay off campus," Gilbert Gamez is president of the Los Angeles School Police Association, the police officer's union.

"When they would go to campus, they were told by employees at the district that they need to leave or 'what is your business here?'" Gamez said. "Some of the officers actually stop by and say, 'Can we use the restroom?' and they say, 'No, you can't. You're not allowed on campus anymore.'"

However, Williams said police didn't always help.

"There were fights in schools, there were incidents on school campuses when school police were still there. School police were not preventing, and in many cases they were escalating, and making some of these situations worse," he said.

CBS2 Investigates wanted to ask LAUSD School Police Chief Leslie Ramirez about what's going on, but she twice cancelled an interview.

The office of the school member Monica Garcia, who spearheaded the cutbacks, said she wasn't available for an interview. In fact, all of the board members, through their offices, either said they weren't available or didn't respond to our requests.

So, CBS2 Investigates caught up with school board member Nick Melvoin at a public event and what should be down about administrators who are fearful and think police should be back on campus.

"We need to do a better job of providing non-police resources. We need to give schools different tools to reimagine public safety, so that our employees feel safe while our communities feel safe," Melvoin said.

Until that happens, though, Jackson fears crimes like this will continue.

"I don't want to send them back to the public school system, never ever again," she said.

The Pomona School District, a few weeks ago, decided to bring police back after removing them from high schools. The LA school board, though, rejected a resolution in September that would have allowed individual middle and high schools to decide on bringing back an officer on campus.

As for whether or not the added school counselors and social workers are having an effect, it depends on who you talk to. Some said they are better than police being on campus and students feel better about it, but the test will be, perhaps, after the school year when they can crunch the numbers to see what effect it's having on crime.


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