SRO position guaranteed for next school year
When Suzanne Evinger steps into the Baldwin schools, she's much more than a law enforcement officer. The Baldwin School Resource Officer is also an educator, a counselor, a role model and a friend for district students.
But because of recent budget problems, the Baldwin School District is unable to provide funding for its part of the SRO grant next year, thereby eliminating Evinger's position and making the Baldwin district the only one in the Frontier League without an SRO.
"Initially we were told it looks bad so you had better start looking at cuts," said Bret Jones, Baldwin High School assistant principal. "While the resource officer is an excellent position and a needed position, when we're looking at cutting, one of the first things we look at are the non-educators."
But because of the efforts of the Baldwin City Police Department and the help of an SRO grant, Evinger will still be in the schools' classrooms and hallways next year.
"The Baldwin City Police Department said this is something they don't want to eliminate," Jones said.
The BCPD will provide the funding needed, along with the help of a partial SRO grant, Evinger said, to keep the SRO in the schools for the fourth consecutive year.
"It's cheaper for us to use me out here nine months and on the streets for three months than to hire a tenured officer," Evinger, a commissioned Baldwin police officer and first-year SRO, said.
One of the main reasons the BCPD wants to keep an SRO in the school district, she said, is the every day interaction with the students.
"It's an extension of community policing," she said. "We want them to know they can trust us to help them."
Jones said he agreed the SRO is vital in maintaining good relations between the students and the police.
"It builds a rapport between the law enforcement and the students," he said. "It allows the local police to have a better presence with the students and the students see that these are people and they're doing a job."
But building relationships with the students isn't the only responsibility for the SRO. One of the more important duties of the officer is to provide protection, Evinger said.
"The ultimate thing is to protect and serve," she said. "It's to protect the students and the faculty."
But there's more to the SRO's job than that.
Evinger, a 20-year veteran of the Kansas Highway Patrol, said she is responsible for classroom and school educational programs on drugs, alcohol, tobacco and other law enforcement issues, as well school activities like the recent Life Saver Day at BHS.
She said she is also there for students that need advice or have questions about anything concerning the law.
Evinger is also present for special activities and sporting events.
Jones said the SRO is important not only for the school district but the community as well.
"It's a community issue. It's a community benefit," he said. "The city of Baldwin benefits greatly and I think it's a great benefit to the students."
Evinger said the BCPD agreed, which is why it didn't want the SRO position eliminated.
"It's a win-win situation for the city and the school," she said. "We think it's a worthwhile program that's certainly worth keeping no matter what."