Louisiana School Campus

LOUISIANA—During the Louisiana R-II Board of Education meeting Monday, the school investigated getting a school resource officer for the district school system.

Louisiana Police Chief Will Jones and Deputy Chief David Penrod were on hand to outline what a resource officer could do for the school district and answer any questions the board might have.

Superintendent Todd Smith said he had talked with Jones about the costs of possibly brining on a resource officer for the high school and middle school campus and for the elementary school building.

“We’ve done the research on the financials for the position of a resource officer,” Jones said. The officer would be a city employee, who would dedicate 40 hours a week to the schools.

“We would ask for funding for the salary and the benefits (for this officer),” Jones added.

He noted there a lot of positive aspects to having an SRO on the school property. One being that the officer could respond quickly to any incident. Currently, he noted, that there are only one or two LPD officers on duty at a time for the whole town, which could slow response time should the need arise for quick police action.

“Everyone knows when you talk about a delay, you’re talking about safety,” Jones said. Even though there are two buildings—the combined high school and middle school building and the elementary school building—Jones said one SRO could handle both.

“We believe one officer can handle both sides and that if would be up to the administrators to make a cooperative agreement among themselves,” he added.

Having an officer in the school zone makes a big difference in people’s attitudes, Jones explained.

“If you have an SRO, you can have an officer in your trouble spots, such as where children are being dropped off (or picked up),” Jones said. “It is the first step in the use of force continuum. Having an officer here calms people down. … When the police show up, everyone’s attitude changes. Everyone wants to be nice.”

Jones said a dedicated SRO could also help with the DARE program.

“It would be a person the students are already comfortable with,” he said. And during some sporting events, having an SRO could help, Jones added. With some traditional rivalries, he explained the officer could travel with the team to away games or follow in a police vehicle.

Having an SRO, he noted, adds an extra level of security for the school. Jones recalled an incident last month where a student threw a chair at one of the teachers. It took 15-20 minutes before a LPD officer could respond because of another incident elsewhere in the city.

The Bowling Green R-I School campus has an SRO contracted through the Pike County Sheriff’s Office. Jones said that was one option for the Louisiana campus, but it would be better to have the local police department staff the SRO position, because the students would be able to interact with an officer from their city.

“It allows the students to get to know the officers,” he said, “and build a comfort level with them.” It makes opening a line of communication with the police department easier, he added.

School Board member Pam Todd said the Pike County Sheriff’s Office had recently appointed a DARE officer for the R-I campus.

Jones said the SRO could work in conjunction with the sheriff’s DARE officer until the Louisiana police officer was fully trained in DARE.

“It wouldn’t happen overnight,” he said. There’s a lot involved in becoming a certified DARE officer.

And with DARE, he noted, it’s not always about the curriculum being taught, but about the connection between the officer and the students.

Pam asked about seeing on-duty officers at some games.

Penrod said, when an officer has a child who attends the school, he or she can ask permission to stop by the school for a short time before resuming regular patrol.

“They’re not here for the whole game,” he said.

The school board said it would continue to review the information. No decision was made during the meeting.

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