Guards to Supplement School Police for Late-Night Tours at Fontana, Calif. Schools

Jan. 18--FONTANA -- Security guards instead of sworn school police officers will be patrolling district sites late at night, on weekends and holidays.

The Fontana Unified school board on Wednesday night awarded a $53,500 contract from Feb. 1 through June 30 to Rancho Cucamonga-based The Surveillance, Protection & Investigations Group Inc. The guards will be paid $28 an hour to work from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. during the school week and to cover weekend and holiday shifts.

Until now, the school district's Police Department has protected 43,000 students, 5,000 staff, and school district property 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Since security guards will be contracted to take over the weekend and late-night shifts, that bumps the equivalent of three school police officers to daytime, school-day shifts on campuses "where they're more needed," schools police Chief Alan Hostetter said.

It could also help with recruiting officers to the district if they have weekends and nights off, he said.

"It'll attract the kind of person we hope to attract to our agency -- probably somebody looking for more stable family life who doesn't have to work weekends or holidays but still wants the challenges of working in law enforcement," Hostetter said.

It's one of the latest changes to hit the school district Police Department and follows the recommendations of an audit completed by the district's consultant, Redlands Police Chief Jim Bueermann, in September.

The first major department change came about when the district in July contracted city police Lt. Alan Hostetter to lead the schools' Police Department, combining the school police chief and assistant chief positions into one.

The audit also recommended converting two officer positions into police corporals, who would report to two sergeants. The corporal positions were approved in December and have not yet been filled.

In addition to Hostetter, the department currently has two corporal, two sergeant and 14 police officer positions. Of those, two corporal and two officer slots are vacant and two more officer positions unfunded.

As suggested in the audit, the district is buying a computer-aided dispatch- and records-management system from Sun Ridge Systems Inc. for $83,859.

Officers will be able to retrieve data -- like the number and type of calls at schools -- in a matter of seconds as opposed to the days it currently takes to sift through documents.

The system will make it easier to look at crime patterns and analyze trends, Hostetter said.

Such a system, Hostetter said, is "the nerve center of any police department."

Although no schools in the district currently have video cameras, Hostetter said he is looking at the cost of such systems and whether cameras should be at high schools only.

Cameras could have discouraged 500 students from fighting at Fontana High School in October or help identify all the students involved, he said.

"Their mere presence on campus will do a lot to deter fights and any other criminal activity that might take place on campus," Hostetter said.

Contact writer Leonor Vivanco at (909) 386-3875 or via e-mail at .

Copyright (c) 2007, San Bernardino County Sun, Calif. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Business News.