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Covington and school district working to fund officer

The city of Covington and the Kent School District are working together to fund a school resource officer who would be stationed at Kentwood High School beginning in September.

“It’s something I’ve had on our wish list to improve the public safety for our citizens for a long time,” said Covington Police Chief Kevin Klason.

The City Council discussed using future budget surpluses to pay for part of a resource officer at the council’s annual strategic planning summit on Jan. 25.

“That is how they are going to fund it for the foreseeable future,” Klason said.

Klason said that the school district will fund 60 percent of the resource officer and the city will fund 40 percent. The annual cost for a dedicated school resource officer, Klason added, is about $185,000. That includes salary, benefits, as well as equipment — including a patrol car — and all overhead costs associated with the officer.

“That’s the full package,” Klason said.

In the past, both Kentwood and Kentlake had dedicated resource officers, but those programs went away due to funding cuts a number of years ago.

“It was a budgetary issue,” Klason said of why the program was cut. “We’ve had discussions in the past (with the school district) and they too have wanted a school resource officer, and the time is right that we can finally do this.”

Klason said the stabilizing economy allowed for the possibility of a resource officer dedicated to Kentwood.

“I think it’s a great positive thing and I think when we look at student safety being paramount and having a community partnership, both of those lend to a positive partnership,” Kentwood Principal John Kniseley said. “I think it’s a great way to have that respect built between the police and the students, and I think it’s a great opportunity to have that built in a positive light.”

The city and school district are currently in the process of reviewing a contract and Klason said he hopes that it will be approved within the next month.

The proposed school resource officer would be a full-time position stationed at the school Monday through Friday. While primarily stationed at Kentwood, the officer would also spend some time at Mattson Middle School and Cedar Heights Middle School. During the summer the officer would assist both the school district and the city with security and policing needs.

No Kent schools in Covington currently have a resource officer, although a few schools in the city of Kent do.

Among the goals of a resource officer are to connect with the students, staff and community, as well as to handle any issues that come up during the school day.

“Getting the kids to know that the officers are human,” Klason said of the goals of the program. “They are approachable—show them a different side and show them that there are positive ways to interact with officers.”

The next step after the contract is approved is for Klason to begin recruiting applicants for the position. He will advertise to deputies within the sheriff’s office and a panel that includes Klason and staff from the district will conduct interviews. The selected officer will have to attend a training school specifically for school resource officers during the summer. The goal is for the officer to start in the fall.

In addition, Klason said the resource officer will attend a conference in August with district security staff that is for school safety personnel.

“So that they’re all working off the same page, and help them work together in concert with each other,” Klason said.

Klason stressed that helping police the district is only part of a resource officer’s duties. The program is also about building relationships and community.

“Both the school district and the security staff and I have been hoping this would come to fruition — the timing just hasn’t been right over the last several years with the downturn in the economy and the school district’s budget cycle being several months off from the city’s,” Klason said. “We’ve gotten to a juncture where we are finally going to make it work.”

 

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