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Our Opinion: Officers prove a vital resource for schools

Our Opinion: Officers prove a vital resource for schools

April 9th, 2013 in News

A proposal to allow school districts to hire their own resource officers may not be needed here, but that doesn't mean it is unnecessary.

Legislation sponsored by state Rep. Sheila Solon, R-Blue Springs, would authorize school districts to hire resource officers. The officers would be required to undergo specified training, including responding to an intruder scenario.

In Cole County, the Jefferson City School District contracts with city police for its resources officers and the Blair Oaks, Russellville and Eugene districts partner with the sheriff's department for its officers.

Those associations have worked well since they began.

And, in the words of Jefferson City Police Chief Roger Schroeder: "The wheel is not broken in Jefferson City, so it doesn't need fixing."

The state legislation - approved by the House and advanced to the Senate - preserves local control. Because decisions are made by local school boards, no state money is required.

And, although the state law was prompted by safety concerns in the aftermath of the massacre at a Connecticut elementary school, the role of resources officers goes far beyond emergency response.

Both Schroeder and Sheriff Greg White acknowledge that school safety is top priority for resources officers.

But, White adds resource officers are "embedded with not just the faculty and staff but, certainly, with the students - and they function in mentoring, as problem-solver and building on the educational environment."

And, as Schroeder points out, the resource officer "serves as a direct and constructive conduit between the school district and police department."

The multi-faceted jobs of law enforcement officers involve protecting and preventing, reacting and taking action, gathering information and educating. And they do all this while building relationships and serving as role models and ambassadors for their agencies.

The state legislation would provide an added option, but school districts in Cole County are not likely to improve on existing resource officer partnerships.