A Sequim schools resource officer could be in place by next fall.
Sequim city councilors gave their approval Monday night to accept a four-year grant for $125,000 from the U.S. Department of Justice’ Community Oriented Policing Services, COPS, hiring program.
Police Chief Bill Dickinson said he wasn’t sure the federal funding would come through but the police department still set a school resource officer as its No. 1 priority of its strategic plan.
“If kids are around a police officer, it becomes not an ‘us versus them’ but a relationship based opportunity,” Dickinson said. “When the officer goes around school, kids wave at you with all five fingers.
It teaches police officers are not the enemy but there to help.”
Sequim schools last had a school officer in 2009 and both the city and schools decided to stop funding the position due to cutbacks. For the position to be finalized, Sequim School District’s School Board must accept the grant at its Monday, Oct. 21st meeting and to split the costs with the city.
Previously, Kelly Shea, Sequim School District superintendent, said they’ve budgeted for the position and intend to support it.
The grant pays 75 percent of costs in year one and two with $56,055 set for year one. It would cost both entities about $9,342 each for the officer’s salary and benefits (about $74,740). In year two the grant pays $57,874 and the entities about $9,342 each for an officer at $77,165 in salary and benefits. The third year splits 50 percent of the costs, with just over $11,070 in grant monies costing them a 25 percent split at $35,508 for $82,086 in salary and benefits.
The fourth year is required for the grant but does not offer any funds so the city and schools would split $42,938 for an officer’s salary and benefits at $85,877.
After four years, funding the position is not a requirement to maintain the grant.
“If it’s the highest priority (in the strategic plan), then we better fund it,” Steve Burkett, Sequim city manager, said.
When the police department finds an officer could some take time, Dickinson said.
The department is currently three officers down with one officer at the academy, another tentatively slated for academy in March and background checks being performed for the third vacancy.
As soon as Sequim School District commits, Dickinson said he’ll send in the paperwork and likely see the first grant by the first of the year.
From there they’ll begin recruiting from the academy or an officer in the field already.
The previous school resource officer visited all of the public schools in city limits to create relationships with students and staff, spend time in classrooms when appropriate and focused on crime prevention.
The biggest issues facing Sequim students as reported from the superintendent, Dickinson said, are drugs and truancy which tends to lead students to dropping out of school.
Dickinson said the police handle hundreds of calls on school grounds each a year and since the position was cut they’ve assigned a dayshift position to report to the schools as needed.
“We’ve done it as a band-aid but we can’t provide that resource because we’re shorthanded,” he said.
The new officer would work full-time in the schools and on inservice days work there if needed, go to the police department for paperwork and/or backup other officers.
Dickinson said the officer won’t take vacation during the school year and take his/her vacation in the summer, work on training and backup the department as needed.
The new position will be included in the city’s budget as an amendment for next year. The city is set to receive a grant for a new car for the school resource officer from Homeland Security.