The Mission CISD Board of Trustees explored the pros and cons of the district implementing its own police department. Following a presentation from Director for Safety & Security Martin Castañeda and a discussion in executive session, the board decided they would take a final vote on the item at the June school board meeting.
Although trustee Jerry Zamora has been adamant about Mission CISD starting an in-house police department, a few other trustees are not entirely sold on the matter, partially because of the cost.
For the 2022-2023 school year, MCISD contracted 26 law enforcement officers from local agencies and security guards to beef up security throughout the district. The cost was $917,046 for the 26 school resource officers alone, which includes a grant for Alton PD officers with a potential for another for Hidalgo County constables.
Castañeda determined the projected cost for starting a police department at Mission CISD would be more than $1.2 million, and yearly cost of up to $385,990. The startup cost includes equipment and payroll expenditures, while the annual total consists of only the salary and benefits for a chief, sergeant and four police officers.
However, Mission CISD would still contract the 26 local agency law enforcement officers and security guards, in addition to the six officers of their in-house police department — making the cost more than $2.1 million for the first year. But in subsequent years, Zamora stated that a district police department would save MCISD money because it would mean more grant opportunities.
“We need to be proactive for the future needs of our district and we need to ensure that effective systems are established to ensure sustainability moving forward,” said Zamora, who is the chief deputy of precinct 3 constables. “Developing a police department in our district is the way to do this.”
He also said the goal is to eventually wane off contracting officers from local agencies, although maintaining partnerships with the other entities is still crucial.
Trustee Petra Ramirez believes the money should go toward the students instead.
“I’m going to say it loud and clear that I feel that our students need more money than anybody else,” Ramirez said. “Our safety is our priority, we will never do away with safety. What I’ve seen has been amazing and the action that everybody has taken, but those million dollars that we’re going to be spending, I think we need to give them to our kids.”
Ramirez also prefers to wait to decide until after the 2023 Texas legislative session concludes in case the state government passes new laws that would affect the district. One of the high-profile bills is House Bill 3, which could restrict those who carry a gun on campus.
School security became a priority in the 88th Texas legislative session following the shooting at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, where a gunman killed 19 students and two educators, despite the school having an in-house police department and local agency on the scene. In the year since the tragedy, the Texas government chose to focus on school security rather than pass gun control legislation. Some changes to education requirements include a formal program that guides districts in conducting threat assessments and implementing intruder detection audits.
Earlier this school year, the state audited Mission CISD’s safety protocols and found no cause for concern. Additionally, the Texas School Safety Center recognized MCISD several times for their security initiatives.
Ramirez praised the safety and security director and his team for the measures the department has taken to protect the Mission CISD community.
“I don’t see much of a difference as to why we would need a police department because what I’ve seen…we’re very well covered,” Ramirez said. “And [with] these awards, apparently we’re doing something good because the state is not going to award you if you’re not doing what’s right on these programs that we have. So apparently, we’re doing amazing. And all we’re going to do is add to the cost because you’re going to hire more. I can see the point if we had the money.”
At the May 10 school board meeting, the trustees unanimously voted to continue the discussion at the next school board meeting, following more information from administration. The next workshop is June 7, and the next meeting is June 21.