The two Manteca police officers who were assigned as safety officers to Manteca Unified’s 15 elementary schools last year are coming back Aug. 8 thanks to district funding .
Manteca Police public information spokesman Lt. Tony Souza confirmed that Sam Gallego and Steve Harris are being assigned to the schools again. On the roster as reserve officers, they were credited with making a difference at the K-8 campuses last year when they were funded by anonymous donations.
Souza noted that the use of reserve officers in the school program actually costs less and puts a lesser burden on the district’s budget compared to the price of full-time patrolman.
Gallego and Harris reportedly bonded with the children last year as they made their rounds of the different schools and interacted with the students on the playgrounds and in the classrooms as well as in the cafeterias during lunch time.
Each officer spent some 30 years on the force serving on a variety of assignments from patrol to narcotics and on SWAT teams. The duo will once again appear on the school grounds driving black and white police cars and switch the days of the week between them. One patrolman will again be on duty the first two days of the week and the other assigned to Thursdays and Fridays. They will once again switch off on the Wednesday duty.
Both officers were concerned during the summer break that the school campus duty would not again be funded. It is an assignment they recognized as being a worthwhile bonding experience with the children while at the same time offering them a measure of protection.
At the end of the last school year one school principal lauded the officers’ work, saying, “I hear thank yous from parents and kids all the time – it’s great, you can’t under value it.”
The officers were also involved in school activities such as the “Read Across America” reading program.
They routinely gave classroom presentations during the last school year with the most popular being talking about their lives behind their badges.