CRAWFORD COUNTY - Crawford County Sheriff Dale McCullick is pursuing a grant offered through the U.S. Department of Justice, called the COPS grant to create a ‘School Resource Officer’ position within his department. If approved by the county, and by all three participating school districts, the resource officer would rotate between the Wauzeka-Steuben, Seneca and North Crawford Schools.
The vision is that the grant would pay for three-quarters of the salary for a period of three years, and the remaining amount would be split between the three districts and the county at 25 percent each. In the summer, the officer would be assigned to other duties within the sheriff’s department.
The Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) is responsible for advancing the practice of community policing by the nation's state, local, territorial, and tribal law enforcement agencies. The COPS Office awards grants to hire community-policing professionals, develop and test innovative policing strategies, and provide training and technical assistance.
“The vision for this position is not just school security, but also to promote camaraderie with the kids and talk to the kids,” McCullick said. “Despite all the attention school security has gotten in the news recently, actually we have been working on creating a position like this for some time.”
McCullick said that the department used to have a similar position in the past that was funded by the DARE program. When those funds dried up, then the position ceased.
“I’ve applied for grants prior to this,” McCullick said. “They always seem to award the funds to the bigger school districts.”
Wauzeka-Steuben Interim Admnistrator Gary Albrecht reports that his school board is looking at the possibility of supporting creation of this position financially.
“I think it’s a great idea to have law enforcement available and visible in the school,” Albrecht said. “Ultimately, though, it’s the school board that will make that decision.”
North Crawford Administrator Brandon Munson reports that so far there has been one initial discussion with the three school districts and the sheriff’s department about creation and funding of the position.
“I believe that all four groups think creation of the position is a great idea,” Munson said. “We just want to make sure that it is done for the right reasons. We don’t simply need armed security at North Crawford.”
Munson listed the reasons he feels creation of the position could be helpful to North Crawford:
Being a visible adult in the school building developing relationships with students;
Going into classrooms and working with kids at a young age to start developing those relationships early on;
Providing education in the classrooms when appropriate and under the direction of North Crawford staff;
Assisting district officials in creating best practices and procedures around school safety -- updating handbooks, policies, etc.;
Assisting with day-to-day disciplinary issues when appropriate; and
Working as a liaison between the district and Crawford County.
“The most important role that I see this person fulfilling would be to develop positive relationships with all of our students, particularly those we may identify as being at-risk for a number of environmental factors,” Munson said. “As I understand it, the three school districts will have a direct role in the selection of the individual, and creating their job duties.”
Munson stated that hedoesn't foresee this being an official board action item within the next couple months, as there is a lot of planning and discussion that still needs to happen leading up to that point.
Seneca School District Administrator David Boland agrees that the concept has merit. Like others, he and his board are waiting to see more details before taking any further steps.