Baldwin City police chief pitches SRO program to school board
On a night the Baldwin school board approved a number of cost-cutting measures, it also received an offer to start a new program at a bargain price.
Baldwin City Police Chief Greg Neis shared a proposal with the board that would reintroduce the school resource officer program at district schools with a total cost to the district of $15,908, a quarter of the annual $63,631 cost for the officer’s salary and benefits.
The city would pick up the cost of the officer’s equipment and vehicle, Neis said. City Administrator Chris Lowe added that the city also would cover the cost of any additional insurance for the officer’s family.
Neis said the SRO would benefit both the school district and the city, a view Baldwin Police Sgt. Kim Springer reinforced in her comments to the board. Springer served as an SRO in Baldwin schools for 3 1/2 years before the program was discontinued three years ago as a cost-savings measure.
Neis and Springer stressed the SRO would not be a security officer. The SRO would protect the school the officer was in during an emergency but obviously could not provide constant security to all four district schools, they said. Any incident at a school that occurred when the SRO was absent from the building should be handled according to the normal procedure of calling 911, they said.
Springer said she spent most of her time in the junior high and high school because her presence was more disruptive in the elementary schools. But she said she visited all schools on an unpredictable schedule.
The value of the SRO was to provide law enforcement to the district, build relationships with students and provide a positive law enforcement role model. Springer said she developed relationships with students that continue today.
Knowing students at the schools helped her identify youngsters involved in misdeeds officers or residents witnessed, Springer said. She also heard things that help prevent incidents, she said.
The SRO also would teach classes, such as those she continues to offer in home-alone safety and sexual assault, Springer said.
Neis said that unlike the former police chief, he would only call the SRO out of schools during a community emergency. The police chief and city administrator said they would develop a memorandum of understanding with the district that would list the responsibilities of both parties and duties of the SRO to assure the program would be on stable ground for the long term.
School board members agreed with Superintendent Paul Dorathy’s view that the SRO program was an asset to the district. The question was whether the district could afford even the bargain the city was offering with the budget challenge it faces next year and likely tighter budgets in following years. The board will answer that question in the next two months as it crafts the district’s 2013-2014 budget.
Board members and Dorathy did note the district’s share of the program was much less than in the discontinued program when the district paid for 50 percent of the SRO’s salary.