RANDALL BENTON / rbenton@sacbee.com

Represented by attorney Stewart Katz, left, Jovon Kelly, center, and Andrew Latshaw are among five plaintiffs who sued Twin Rivers Unified School District police, alleging false arrest and abuse by officers in September 2010.

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Editorial: A $650,000 lesson for Twin Rivers

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013 - 11:55 am | Page 12A

A $650,000 settlement in a police misconduct lawsuit is just the latest evidence of incompetence at the troubled Twin Rivers Unified School District Police Department. As we have stated repeatedly, Twin Rivers could save money and better protect its students, employees and campuses by disbanding its police force and contracting with either the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department or the city Police Department.

The latest settlement involved an incident in 2010 in which Twin Rivers officers were accused of brutality and the false arrest of five people. The district attorney refused to file charges against those arrested. A Twin Rivers officer still faces criminal charges in the case.

Last year, the Sacramento County grand jury confirmed residents' complaints that police were aggressively towing cars just to raise revenue and were responding in other jurisdictions "unannounced, unrequested and unwanted."

After a year on paid leave, the district's former police chief resigned last month. At one point seven Twin Rivers officers out of a total force of just 20 were on paid administrative leave. Two law enforcement veterans brought in to help manage the police force quit abruptly last summer after the school board ignored their recommendations to disband the canine unit, an operational and money-saving imperative.

Former Sacramento Police Chief Rick Braziel estimated Twin Rivers could save more than $1 million a year by contracting with city police. Twin Rivers would no longer have to buy and replace squad cars, guns, radios or other expensive law enforcement equipment, or absorb the considerable liability of fielding its own force. Finally, officer recruitment at Twin Rivers has always been hampered by the fact that the school district cannot pay as well as cities or the county.

The Twin Rivers school board can save money and better safeguard the district by disbanding its Police Department and contracting out for law enforcement services. Why not do that?

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