Council plans to fast track school resource officer

By CANDY NEAL
cneal@dcherald.com

The Northeast Dubois County School Corporation needs to have a school resource officer, the Dubois County Council said unanimously Monday.

The council wants the sheriff’s department to add the position to its 2019 budget, and plans to make sure the position is approved. Northeast Dubois Schools will provide $70,000 (half of which will be covered by a grant) to help pay for the position, and the county plans to cover the rest of the cost.

Council members cited the changing times and additional dangers schools have been facing recently, including school shootings, as reasons an officer should be present in the district, which is covered by the Dubois County Sheriff’s Department.

“We are so rural. The response time for us in the case of an incident is probably a minimum of 10 minutes,”  district Superintendent Bill Hochgesang told the council. “And that is an awful lot of time if something major happens in our area.”

Officers try to spend as much time as they can in the northeast area of the county, “but it is a large county,” said Tim Lampert, chief deputy of the county sheriff’s department.

The district has applied for a $35,000 Secured School Safety Grant from the state and the school board will match that with another $35,000. It is pretty much guaranteed that the grant will be awarded in August, Hochgesang said. The state Legislature held a special session in May and added $5 million to the grant program to make sure all districts will get a grant. The money is to be used to improve safety measures at schools.

The officer would be contracted to work in the district nine months, with the other three months working at the sheriff’s department. The officer would be trained through the Law Enforcement Academy, just like the county’s other deputies, and would go through school resource officer training, Lampert said. Hochgesang added that the officer would also have safety specialist training, which Northeast Dubois staff members also receive.

Of the four school districts in Dubois County, the Northeast district is the only one that does not have a local police force. Greater Jasper Consolidated Schools has a school resource officer through the Jasper Police Department. The Huntingburg Common Council will consider this evening approving a Huntingburg Police Department officer to serve as the Southwest Dubois County School Corporation’s school resource officer. And the Ferdinand Police Department is planning to send one of its officers to school resource officer training, so that the department is prepared should the Southeast Dubois County School Corporation request a school resource officer.

The county sheriff’s department looked for grants for a school resource officer for Northeast Dubois Schools, “however, the grants we found could only be applied for by the school,” Lampert said.

Once approved, the Secured School Safety Grant will be available for use in January, Hochgesang said. The council said the position should be added to the sheriff’s department’s 2019 budget, which will be presented to the council in August.

The cost of adding a deputy position is $82,000, not including the cost for uniforms, ongoing training, a vehicle and other accessories, like a weapon. Despite that extra cost, the council, just as the Dubois County Commissioners did in late May, agreed the position needs to be added.

“It’s unfortunate that schools have to deal with this,” Council President Jerry Hunefeld said.

Hochgesang agreed. “It’s sad that this is our reality,” he said.




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