Since schools in Santa Barbara haven’t had a police officer assigned to them in years, Officer Christina Marshall is excited to make the position her own.
Her goal is to be more proactive and seek out students who aren’t delinquent yet, but need help before heading down that road, she says.
For her first weeks based at Santa Barbara High School, she is visiting all the schools within city limits and letting them know she’s available.
“I’m basically here for whoever needs me,” she said.
Not all students have seen her around the Anapamu Street campus yet, but her goal is to become approachable so they come to her with any problems they’re having — whether at school or at home.
Marshall has been a patrol officer with the Santa Barbara Police Department for a year and eight months but now only responds to the schools, which other patrol units often don’t have time for.
She has the SBPD radio wired in her ear and carries around Santa Barbara High’s scanner to keep up with all the chatter at once.
Marshall was part of a multiunit SBPD “saturation patrol” Wednesday that swept up a suspected gang member carrying a loaded gun. Police Sgt. Riley Hardwood, a department spokesman, said the patrol was on the alert for juvenile and gang-related activity during Santa Barbara High’s open campus lunch hour and after school. During the operation, uniformed and plainclothes officers blanketed the streets around campus and along the Milpas Street corridor.
Among those taken into custody was Miguel Angel Ramirez, 18, of Santa Barbara, who was arrested on suspicion of being a gang member in possession of a loaded firearm, a felony, Harwood said. Ramirez is not a student but he was with a 17-year-old Santa Barbara High student, who was not arrested, Harwood said.
Marshall interviewed for the position after Police Chief Cam Sanchez announced it would be funded again this year, and she’ll be assigned to the schools for at least four years. She thinks her background in juvenile probation will help a lot.
“What’s important is the balance of knowing when to give a kid a break and when a break would not do them any favors,” she said.
There are a few young people who still call her “mom” and thank her for listening and helping, and they are the ones who make her think she can make a difference in this job, she said.
“I’m here for whatever the school needs,” she said. “If they need me to be a counselor, be a mentor, or be a police officer.”
If she can’t help, she’ll find the right person, she added.