VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — A Virginia Beach School Board member says the Virginia Beach Police Department has had to reassign 10 school resource officers away from their duties with the school division.
Virginia Beach police said the reassignments are temporary and are simply happening earlier than usual ahead of summer break. Those affected officers will report back to their positions as school resource officers when school resumes in the fall.
School board member Vicky Manning’s posted on social media Tuesday with details about the reassignments. The post included a screenshot of an email to school board members, which said the reassignments were due to a shortage of police officers. The screenshot did not say who wrote the email, but 10 On Your Side learned Wednesday it was sent by Virginia Beach City Public Schools Chief Operations Officer Jack Freeman.
According to the email, which was sent April 2, school resource officers are assigned full-time to all middle and high schools during the school year. According to the Virginia Beach city website, school resource officers are assigned to each of the 11 high schools, 13 middle schools, Old Donation School, Renaissance Academy, and Southeastern Cooperative Educational (SECEP) program.
Virginia Beach City Public Schools confirmed to 10 On Your Side that “situations may occur where the police department needs to reassign officers temporarily.”
During a special City Council meeting March 30, Police Chief Paul Neudigate said the department was about 100 officers short and was pulling from multiple resources to add officers in the resort area.
The meeting came several days after multiple shootings left nine people injured and two dead on March 26 at the Oceanfront. One of those people was shot and killed by an officer.
Making ends meet in schools
Virginia Beach School Board member Carolyn Weems said SROs are vitally important.
“They not only provide that level of security, but they have also developed such good relations with the students. SROs get a very good glowing report,” Weems said.
The email screenshot posted by Manning also said the principals of the affected schools were notified April 2 and that “the Office of Safe Schools is working closely with VBPD to ensure that SRO coverage is suitably rotated among schools” when students and staff return from spring break.
The school division said it would continue to work with the police department and the Safe Schools Office to ensure all city schools are safe.
The school board is scheduled for a meeting April 27, during which they’ll receive an update on school resource officers.
Weems says the school system must come up with a plan B and fill the now-empty SRO positions. She told this to the School Superintendent Dr. Aaron Spence that the division needs “to figure this out.”
Spence told her they’re working on a plan.
School Board Member Beverly Anderson thinks they can make it without the 10 SROs,
“We are also not at full strength without students. We are not at 100%, but we have a lot of safe distancing going on,” Anderson said.
10 On Your Side asked School Board member Trenace Riggs whether she’s concerned there won’t be 10 SROs in middle or high schools.
“No, because they are going to be sharing SROs that we have in middle and high schools. They will be sharing,” Riggs said.
Weems still thinks something more needs to be done.
“Just because schools aren’t packed, we still have our students, and I think parents would be [concerned if we say] ‘well, you know, since only half the kids are here, we are not going to supply that level of security,’” Weems said.
Measures taken by police
To help safety and police visibility in the resort area over the summer, Neudigate said the department would be assigning more officers to the second precinct, which includes the Oceanfront.
Beginning April 8, the department plans to incrementally add personnel to the resort area as the summer approaches. Neudigate said second precinct officers would be brought to the resort area from other zones. All mounted unit personnel and school resource officers would be brought to cover the area, as well as some special operations personnel.
On Wednesday, Virginia Beach police responded to a request from 10 On Your Side and said they would not go into specific detail regarding internal movement of officers.
“However, the schools are not in essence losing any School Resource Officers,” a department spokeswoman wrote in an email.
“Every year after school lets out (in June) our SRO’s get reassigned to supplement the Oceanfront for the summer season. This year, a few of them are starting their temporary reassignments a little early to assist with the early crowds at the oceanfront. Those officers will report back to their positions as School Resource Officers when school resumes in the fall.”
Neudigate also said that they hope to add to the coverage with overtime. The department plans to change to a two-shift strategy, which means officers would work longer shifts instead of the current eight-hour shifts on the three-shift model. “On paper,” switching to that two-shift model would put more officers on the street at one time, Neudigate said.
The Virginia Beach sheriff also agreed to provide dedicated staff to cover the area and assist with officer visibility and traffic management.
Stay with WAVY.com for updates.