Goodman says need is thereSchool district opts not to pursue grant for officer
Thursday the Washington Community School District (WCSD) superintendent Dr. Mike Jorgensen told the City of Washington the district wasn’t going to seek a federal grant to help pay for a resource officer’s salary.
Washington police chief Greg Goodman wasn’t surprised by the school district’s decision, but the need for a resource officer is there. He said in the 145 days school has been in session the police department has responded to 114 calls in the district. Some of the calls the department has responded to have been for disorderly conduct, drug and narcotic violations, and theft.
“It’s something we need to continue to discuss,” Goodman said. “With the amount of time we spend at the schools I think it is something that would just be beneficial.”
Officers teach classes in the district periodically, but it isn’t the same as what a resource officer would be able to do, Goodman said. A resource officer would be accessible to students during normal school hours.
The topic of pursuing the grant for a resource officer came up at Wednesday evening’s school board meeting. Jorgensen told the board members the grant would fund 75 percent of the officer’s salary, and the remainder the district would have to pay.
School board president Eric Turner said the School Improvement Advisory Committee (SIAC) had discussed the topic at a recent meeting and weren’t opposed to the idea. However, there were concerns about the district having to fund the other 25 percent of the officer’s salary.
Turner said the committee felt a resource officer would make more of a difference to students in day-to-day situations, as opposed to potential emergencies.
“Would we be having this conversation if the school shootings hadn’t happened?” asked school board member Heidi Vittetoe. “Ultimately, is this a gun issue?”
Vittetoe said since Columbine the idea of having an armed resource officer on campus has come up consistently across the nation.
“I don’t have a problem with guns, don’t get me wrong, “she said. “But the subtext with what we’re saying is the Taser, the gun, the bulletproof vest is bringing security to the system, I think. Because, otherwise, why wouldn’t we be talking about unarmed people?”
Jorgensen said a benefit of having a resource officer on campus would be the relationship a student could potentially have with local law enforcement.
“I think long before the shootings, the spectrum was to have an officer come in and speak about drugs,” said board member Patty Roe. “I like the whole idea of the kids feeling personally acquainted with law enforcement because some kids don’t have a dad figure.”
Vittetoe asked Jorgensen if the district could hire more behavior interventionists instead of paying for one resource officer. Jorgensen said the district would be able to afford two more.
Vittetoe said she would rather have the behavior interventionists at the school to help students with their problems than have law enforcement deal with it.
Roe asked where the resource officer would spend the majority of his time doing.
“The majority of the time they’d be in the secondary schools,” Jorgensen said, “secondary meaning the middle school and the high school.”
Turner asked why an officer couldn’t be taking care of these
things. He also asked why a staff member couldn’t handle the issue himself or herself.
“Well, I would tell you that the high majority of the times we’ve had an officer at the facility, we’ve pressed charges,” Washington High School principal Erik Buccholtz said. “It’s something we’ve pressed charges on.”
Vittetoe said the cops would still be called even if the district hired two more behavioral interventionists.
“Part of the discussion was the number of times the police officers had showed up at all of the different buildings,” Buchholtz said. “Graciously, and offering their services to help out. How many times do we need their services before we decide of offering them something back?”
Another aspect to the discussion was what would happen if something like a shooting were to happen at the high school. If a resource were at the high school at the time of the shooting, the response time would be faster, Buchholz said.
He also said having an officer presence could help deter drug issues the school has been seeing recently.