New Mexico Sheriff Cuts Deputies from Schools
LAS CRUCES, N.M. (AP) -- A manpower shortage caused by low salaries means the Dona Ana County Sheriff's Department will pull several deputies from schools, Sheriff Todd Garrison said.
The three deputies will be reassigned to patrol the streets and respond to calls, Garrison said.
The department currently has about 30 deputy vacancies, and Garrison said he cannot afford to keep eight officers in schools as the department has in the last few years.
Five deputies will remain in the schools in Hatch, Mesilla and the south-county Gadsden district.
''We're going to try to be as visible as we can,'' Garrison said. ''We want to keep this program going, but right now, we're strapped.''
Deputy Michelle Ugalde was stationed full-time at Gadsden Middle School in Anthony last year. This year, she's responsible for the middle school in Anthony and the middle and high schools in Santa Teresa 15 miles away.
The drive between the schools means less time spent being involved in students' lives and acting as a role model.
''It's unfair to the schools and unfair to the kids,'' Ugalde said. ''You need to be there all the time to make a difference with the gangs.''
The school resource officer program began in the 1990s with federal grants.
Garrison said the sheriff's department has grants to pay the salaries of eight school resource officers, but cannot use the money because salaries are so low that the department cannot meet the grant requirement of replacing deputies taken off the streets with new hires.
The department and county taxpayers will instead foot the bill for the five school resource officers this year.