Eudora News and Information – www.eudorareporter.com
One of the most discussed topics around town over the last couple of months has been the possibility of removing the School Resource Officer position in the Cities Police Department.
The City of Eudora had planned to eliminate the position and use the officer currently assigned to the SRO position for other needs and patrols in the city. At the July 30 City Council meeting, the Council had been presented a letter that was scheduled to be sent to the School District to inform the District that Police Department would be pulling the officer and reassigning him in the Police Department. The Council voiced some strong objections to pulling the officer at that meeting.
While the Council did not offer a resolution or make any vote that would prohibit this action from being taken, the objections of the Council were noted by City officials and the decision was made to keep the SRO position for the current school year. The city will also continue to pay the entire cost of the SRO position for this school year. Officials have indicated that they intend to ask the School District to help share with the cost of the SRO starting in 2013-2014 academic year. The SRO position was initially funded by a grant the city received in 2002. When the grant expired in 2004, the city continued to pay for the position in its entirety.
At this month’s School Board meeting, Superintendent Don Grosdidier mentioned this possible request by the city to share in the cost of having an officer in the schools during the school year.
“You can make a request that asks the School District to pay for it (referring to the SRO position), but I said I can tell you that we’ve cut teaching staff, administrative staff, we don’t have as many school nurses as we would like to have in our buildings and in terms of priority, I’m not sure the School Resource Officer would be a position that would be a higher priority.”
Grosdidier did say that while School District officials are in favor of the SRO position, they are cognizant that it is entirely paid for by the city and they put no pressure on the city to continue the position.
According to Eudora Police Chief Grady Walker, the officer who has served in the SRO position in recent years will be assigned to full time activities in the Police Department and the Police Department will begin seeking applications for a new SRO Officer. Both Walker and Grosdidier acknowledged that due to limited staffing in the Police Department since the beginning of 2012, the SRO officer was used more for city police activities than he was in the schools during this year.
Walker also reiterated his statement from earlier in the summer that the DARE program will continue in the school district uninterrupted and that the DARE program was never in danger of being eliminated.
Eudora News and Information – www.eudorareporter.com
Prior to Monday night’s City Council meeting, one of the City Council members asked me what I thought the big story of the night was going to be. I told that Council Member that it would depend on how many people show up to talk about fluoride or it could be about the proposed text amendment to the zoning laws. I was wrong. The biggest story of the night was the discussion held about the School Resource Officer position.
The SRO position in Eudora was created in 2002 and was initially funded by a Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grant the city had applied for and received. This grant expired in 2004 and the City of Eudora decided at that time, to continue to fund the SRO position in it’s entirety.
For Monday nights Council meeting, City Administrator John Harrenstein and Eudora Police Chief prepared a letter that was scheduled to be sent to the School District on Tuesday. In the letter, Harrenstein and Walker intended to inform the School District that the School Resource Officer would be reassigned to a Patrol Officer position to help fill the need of growing service demands on the Police Department. The letter went on to say that it was the intention of the Police Department to continue the DARE program, respond to student conflicts and respond to any other emergencies that may arise. It also stated the day shift patrol officers would be expected to conduct regular building checks each day during the school year and to request meetings to establish a clear and direct communication plan for when incidents occur.
At the order of the City Council, the letter will not be sent at this time. The majority of the council, along with Mayor Scott Hopson, disagreed with pulling the SRO. Councilman Kenny Massey, a former Eudora Police officer and currently a member of the Douglas County Sheriff’s office, was the most vocal of the council members on this issue.
“I think the police department is making a huge mistake,” Massey said. “It’s about building relationships with students. That one affiliation may be the one thing that keeps relationships on a positive note.”
Councilman Tim Reazin agreed with Massey.
“My thoughts are is that it is a deterrent, Reazin stated. “My kids see the current SRO as a positive influence. They know who he is.”
Neither city staff nor any council members presented empirical data about whether a SRO either deters crime or has no significant effect.
“Ive spent many hours reading study after study and every evaluation has been been driven off an opinionated survey and no actual data,” Walker told the Council.
Walker stated that in 2011, there were 47 “calls” (need for an officer) at the schools. Walker said he did not have a specific statistical breakdown as to the seriousness of those 47 calls but did indicate that a majority of the calls were non-priority issues.
Councilwoman Ruth Hughs, a retired teacher in the Eudora School District, stated she was in support of pulling the SRO because one SRO can’t be everywhere at once.
“From 2002 to 2011, I had everyday contact with the program,” Hughs said. “The SRO is never in the building where he is needed. You have someone (referring to the SRO) in another building or another part of the building and it (referring to an event needing assistance) is occurring somewhere else.”
Hughs later added that you need to balance the needs of the city and the School District.
“The School District, if they really supported this, should put some money in this,” Hughs said. “We are pulling away police service from the city by having a SRO in the building.”
As to the issue of whether or not the SRO will remain in the school, for now, it appears that he will stay. The matter has been sent back to the Police Department and city staff. The Council charged city officials with trying to come up with some data so they can determine the most efficient use of the officer. The disposition of the SRO will likely come before the City Council at a not too distant meeting.