In response to a vandalism call occurring on the campus of Arroyo Valley High School in San Bernardino, three school security officers arrived at the scene and saw a group of 10 or more students scatter. One of the uniformed school security officers, Officer Butts, pursued a group of three or four students, one of whom was M. M. (a minor). Officer Butts was well acquainted with M.M. and yelled at him several times to stop, but M.M. continued to run. During the pursuit, M.M. threw an object on the ground that looked like a spray can. Eventually, M.M. was arrested by a San Bernardino City Unified School peace officer.
M.M. was charged with resisting, delaying or obstructing a public officer (the school security officer), a misdemeanor, in violation of Penal Code section 148(a)(1), in addition to vandalism. Law enforcement personnel have long been considered public officers within the meaning of this statute.
During the jurisdictional hearing, Officer Butts testified that his duties as a school security officer included protecting people and school property, ensuring basic safety at the school by making sure persons on campus were not in possession of weapons, narcotics, or contraband, and investigating or responding to reports of crimes such as vandalism. At the close of the jurisdictional hearing, the juvenile court found that a school security officer was a public officer within the meaning of section 148. On appeal, M.M. asserted that Officer Butts was not a public officer within the meaning of section 148(a)(1). The Court of Appeal agreed, and reversed the judgment, holding that a school security officer is not a public officer within the meaning of 148(a)(1). The California Supreme Court granted the petition for review.
Pursuant to Education Code section 38001.5(c), a "school security officer" is a public safety officer employed by a school district and charged with "ensur[ing] the safety of school district personnel and pupils and the security of the real and personal property of the school district." The Supreme Court held that the legislative history of Penal Code section 148(a)(1) reflected that since 1872, the catchall phrase "public officer" has been understood to include a variety of public officials and employees who perform law enforcement duties in connection with their office and employment.
The Court further held that the legislative history supports the conclusion that school security officers in particular are "public officers" within the meaning of section 148(a)(1), as school security officers, like peace officers, are uniformed and wear badges, may carry firearms, and are subject to mandatory training and screening. Further, pursuant to Education Code section 38000, the Legislature specifically envisioned that school security officers would work in partnership with local law enforcement agencies. The Court also considered the statutory objectives and public policy in favor of including school security officers within the definition of Penal Code section 148(a)(1), including that legally enforceable obedience to the directions of school security officers is required to protect them from undue interference with the performance of their public duties.
LCW Practice Pointer:
Though the California Supreme Court has held that school security officers are "public officers" within the scope of Penal Code section 148(a)(1), they are not considered "peace officers" under the California Penal Code (Section 830, et. seq.) Many school districts utilize school security officers to protect students, faculty and property. Though school security officers are not "peace officers" in California, they must undergo specific training developed by the Department of Consumer Affairs' Bureau of Security and Investigative Services (BSIS) and the Commission on Peace Officers Standards and Training (POST).
In re M.M. (2012) ___ Cal.3d. ____.