RSU 13 School Board discusses applying for School Resource Officer grant
ROCKLAND – As the last item on their agenda, March 1, RSU 13 School Board members discussed the viability of positioning a school resource officer in Oceanside High School. Rockland Police Chief Bruce Boucher said a grant application is available and the Rockland City Council would need to give its approval.
He said it would be January 1, 2019, at the earliest before an officer could be in the school halls.
Those present for the discussion included Oceanside High School Assistant Principal Jesse Bartke, Police Chief Boucher, Knox County Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy Tim Carroll and Rockland Deputy Police Chief Christopher Young.
Vera Roberts, sitting in her first meeting as a newly appointed board member, said she was 100 percent in support of the idea.
“It would add another layer of safety and respect in the schools,” she said.
The Camden-Rockport School Board and the Five Town CSD (Camden Hills Regional High School) board have likewise discussed applying for a federal grant to fund a three-year SRO in their elementary, middle and high schools. (See Camden police, school boards consider resource officer position for K-12 schools)
Board members Tom Peaco, Board Chairman Loren Andrews, Superintendent John McDonald and Gerald Weinand were all in favor that the motion be carried forward. Board members Ron Gamage and Susan Thomas were not in attendance.
Board member Carol Bachofner spoke in opposition to the appointment and said she would vote no to the motion. Board member Nancy Jeffers said while not opposed to the motion, she needed more information, but was fundamentally opposed to guns in school.
Boucher said that if approved, the grant would pay for a school resource officer for three years, but the school board and/or the city must provide for a fourth year.
After over an hour of discussion it was decided by the board to table the motion until its April meeting.
Chief Boucher had said the grant application would be made in April. He also said they should know by June/July if its request for funding had been approved.
The board also agreed to place the motion on their March workshop to prepare for April’s meeting.
The duties of School Resource Officers
According to the federal Dept. of Justice Community Oriented Policing Services, SROs are sworn law enforcement officers responsible for safety and crime prevention in schools.
The COPS program administers the federal grants to communities for such positions.
A local police department, sheriff's agency, or school system typically employs SROs who work closely with school administrators to create a safer environment.
The responsibilities of SROs are similar to regular police officers in that they have the ability to make arrests, respond to calls for service, and document incidents that occur within their jurisdiction.
Beyond law enforcement, SROs also serve as educators, emergency managers, and informal counselors.
“While an SRO's primary responsibility is law enforcement, whenever possible, SROs should strive to employ non-punitive techniques when interacting with students,” the COPS website said. “Arrests should be used only as a last resort under specified circumstances.”
In September, the Justice Department announced additional priority consideration criteria for FY2017 COPS Office grants. Applicants were notified that their application would receive additional points in the application scoring process by certifying their willingness to cooperate with federal immigration authorities within their detention facilities. Cooperation may include providing access to detention facilities for an interview of aliens in the jurisdiction’s custody and providing advance notice of an alien’s release from custody upon request. Eighty percent of the awarded agencies received additional points based on their certifications of willingness to cooperate with federal immigration authorities.
The complete list of the 2017 award recipients can be found here.
Since 1994, the COPS Office has invested more than $14 billion on community policing.