By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
School Resource Officer Approved For RUSD
RUSD graphic
A School Resource Officer will be back on duty on the campuses of the various Riverbank Unified School District schools, part of an agreement between the district and the City of Riverbank.

An agreement between the City of Riverbank and Riverbank Unified School District (RUSD) for a School Resource Officer (SRO) was approved in a 3 to 2 vote by the Riverbank City Council during their regular meeting on Jan. 24.

“We are pleased to have this resource again in our district after a number of years without the support,” stated RUSD Superintendent Christine Facella. “While the Resource Officer does not engage in discipline, they are certainly a resource for our administrators when they are dealing with issues that may have legal implications such as school lockdowns and illegal substances on campus.”

For the past five years city staff, RUSD, and Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department officials have been meeting to discuss the possibility for the district to obtain SRO services. This is not the first time the district has had an SRO as the City Manager Marisela Garcia explained at the meeting that it existed prior to 2007 and then was eliminated due to budgetary constraints. Then the Stanislaus County Probation Department provided services until 2015 but after that there has not been any designated law enforcement on campus.

“I am very excited about bringing a School Resource Officer back to Riverbank,” elaborated Riverbank Police Services Chief Ed Ridenour. “This program was very successful in years past in building trust and mentoring our youth, which I believe is extremely important. While a School Resource Officer does bring an element of safety to Riverbank’s schools, their primary focus will be to foster positive relationships with our youth to ensure they have a positive learning experience. Our youth are our future and investment into their success is paramount. I am confident our School Resource Officer will prove to be a valuable resource for our city and our residents. I want to thank Riverbank Unified and the Riverbank City Council for their support in bringing this valuable program to our community.”

During the presentation, Garcia shared some benefits from schools having an SRO like the program provides a safe learning environment in schools, provides valuable resources to school staff members, and fosters positive relationships between youth and law enforcement. She added that local agencies need the resources and flexibility to establish school resource officer programs that will encourage partnerships between schools and local law enforcement agencies to develop innovative ways to make schools safe.

The terms of the agreement between the city and RUSD would be a one-year term for one deputy which could be renewed for additional one-year terms. The contract can be terminated with a 30-day advance notice. The current term will expire on June 30, 2024 and is slated to begin before the next school year with a possibility prior to that. The Deputy will remain an employee of the Sheriff’s Department but the city will be responsible for paying the SRO’s salary and benefits.

RUSD will reimburse the city up to $130,000 in annual costs for the salary and benefits of the SRO.

Barbara Brown, Director of Student Services with RUSD, addressed the council and explained the district’s perspective on requesting the agreement along with the main roles of the SRO. She said they would be an educator and mentor, campus safety, and a community liaison for the district. They would develop positive relationships with students, conflict mediation, crime prevention, alcohol and drug awareness, decrease physical altercations, drug use and sales as well as discourage intruders. The SRO could be the point person in the event of a lockdown.

Brown added, “These are some examples of what SRO can do for schools. They have become mentors and the most important thing is developing relationships with our students. It is shown through research that discipline incidents go down, drug incidents go down, just everyday kind of fighting goes down when a law enforcement officer is on our campus. I myself worked for Modesto City Schools for 18 years when Modesto Police Department had police officers at the high schools and it was very telling to have that person there. It is not an authoritative position; it is a relationship building position. So, we have seen as I said, discipline incidents, drug and alcohol, have reduced with the presence of an officer.”

Riverbank High School experienced a few lockdowns in recent years and law enforcement was called to assist.

“We have incidents when we have to call law enforcement now that sometimes we have to wait a while before they get to a school site and do an investigation and speak to parents and students,” expressed Brown at the meeting. “So, it would be very nice to have a person that is on our campus and would be located at the high school; however, they could offer assistance to any of our school sites and any of our administrators that would need it.”

Councilmember Luis Uribe and Vice Mayor Rachel Hernandez did not support the agreement for an SRO for RUSD.

Uribe noted through his research “they found no evidence that SROs lessen the severity of school shootings” and that they actually make it worse. He also noted that “Civil rights data shows an increase in school related arrests when an SRO is on campus. If a student is arrested this can follow them when they are filling out their college application, right, this carries on through their entire life.”

“My colleagues here and everyone in the community, we don’t take this lightly,” added Hernandez. “Since October, at least October, I have been having conversations with public health leaders, folks who have knowledge of past SROs, friends in law enforcement, community members, board members, etcetera. Riverbank, I am so proud of the city because it has always been so proactive in our approaches and I can see how this can be considered a part of that. But I do want to challenge the community to be creative and defining public safety in a more expansive way and so I think we are in a position where we are able to do that with a lot of the decisions we make in the city and in partnership.”

Mayor Richard O’Brien, Councilmember Darlene Barber-Martinez, and Councilmember Leanne Jones Cruz voted to approve the agreement.

“Being an employee of a neighboring city school district and an employee of a neighboring high school,” remarked Cruz, “I am all for this item. The SRO officers provided a lot of support. Right now, if we had any kind of incidents, we are calling 911 and waiting for MPD (Modesto Police Department) to show up and it was really nice to have someone right on campus there. They build relationships with students that normally wouldn’t happen. And I am really psyched to see that this is the way that Riverbank has decided to go. I have nothing but positive things to say about SRO officers on campus.”

“I just think that it is the first step in going in the right direction,” said Martinez. “I think we ought to give it a try and it is for a year. Just take note and see how it goes and we don’t have to renew the contract at the end of the year if it doesn’t work out but I hope that it does because I think it would benefit everybody in the long run.”

O’Brien explained that the council was there to evaluate the contract regarding the resources that they can provide.

He said, “To pass judgement on your evaluation of what you need is not our role. It is not in our municipal boundaries. That is outside our boundaries. So, we have resources that we are going to share. Does it suit the city; it does. Does it suit the school; to you it does. So, it is a win-win on both occasions. I commend you for moving forward on it.”

“We are very happy that the City Council voted for the SRO contract,” said Brown. “We have been working on a contract with the City of Riverbank for five years, so it was nice to see that they voted to approve it.”

For more details or specifics, visit to watch the video or read the detailed reports on the agenda item for the Jan. 24 meeting.