Casper Police, School District Unveil Safety Program For Officers In Schools
The Casper Police Department and the Natrona County School District have started a program to enhance security with full-time officers in six schools by the end of the next academic year, and 10 in three years.
The partnership shows what a community can do, Mayor Ray Pacheco said during a news conference at the district's Central Services Office on Wednesday.
"The greatest resource, and your greatest treasure, are your children," Pacheco said. "There is nothing that you can think of when you feel your children could be hurt, and you want to do everything you can to protect them."
Besides protecting students, this partnership will enhance good relationships between law enforcement and children so children can see officers as mentors and there to help, he said.
District Superintendent Steve Hopkins said the district has had police, known as school resource officers, in schools for a couple of decades including now at Kelly Walsh and Natrona County high schools. They have been responsible for other schools on the east and west sides of Casper, Hopkins said.
The new program will make those officers responsible solely for those high schools plus two more and a supervisor by the beginning of the 2018-2019 academic year, he said.
Officers will be added to the most populous schools first.
The new officers will be located at Dean Morgan and Centennial middle schools. By the beginning of the second semester in January, school resource officers will be added at the CY and Pathways schools.
By the beginning of the 2019-2020 academic year, three more will be added for a total of eight plus a supervisor. The number of nine officers and one supervisor will be employed by the 2020-2021 academic year to bring the total to the goal of 10.
Casper Police Chief Keith McPheeters said the city raised the idea earlier this year, proposed it to the school district, which came back with a plan,
The memorandum of understanding between the district and the city, which Casper City Council tentatively approved at its work session Tuesday for a final vote on Aug. 7, says the school district will reimburse the city 70 percent of the costs for the officers. Hopkins said the district itself has allocated $2 million for the project over the next three years.
McPheeters said the officers will be professional and the supervisor will oversee the officers to ensure they don't show favoritism to some students or overlook infractions.
The officers will be on duty in the schools with their authority including being armed, he added.
Referring to Pacheco's earlier comments about building relationships between law enforcement and children, McPheeters said he's not aware of any studies showing such programs deter juvenile crime.
But citing his experience at his previous job, he said a similar program began with his department and that school district had a significant effect on juvenile crime.
In the first year, there was a 32 percent reduction in juvenile arrests, with a similar decline the following year, McPheeters said.