Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Resource officer position returned to school

By DOUG CARDER, Herald Senior Writer | 9/30/2013

A U.S. Department of Justice grant will fully fund a school resource officer for the Ottawa school district for three years, Ottawa police and school officials announced Monday.

The justice department grant, through its 2013 COPS Hiring Grant Program, began Sept. 1 and is scheduled for a period of three years, with a local commitment to retain the SRO position for a fourth year with no federal funding, Ottawa Police Department officials said.

A U.S. Department of Justice grant will fully fund a school resource officer for the Ottawa school district for three years, Ottawa police and school officials announced Monday.

The justice department grant, through its 2013 COPS Hiring Grant Program, began Sept. 1 and is scheduled for a period of three years, with a local commitment to retain the SRO position for a fourth year with no federal funding, Ottawa Police Department officials said.

“The grant will fully fund the SRO position for three years,” Capt. Adam Weingartner, with the Ottawa Police Department, said. “I’m not sure yet what the [local] funding formula will be for that fourth year.”

Tim Ahrens, who has been an officer with the Ottawa Police Department since June 1991, was assigned to the SRO post before the start of the school year in August so he could begin the new year with the rest of the staff, Weingartner said.

Ahrens was selected internally after expressing interest in the position and being interviewed by school district staff members, Weingartner said.

“Officer Ahrens served previously as an SRO in the mid-1990s,” Weingartner said.

Now that the grant has been awarded, the police department will hire an officer to “backfill” Ahrens’ position with the department’s patrol division, Weingartner said.

The SRO position with Ottawa schools was eliminated at the conclusion of the 2010-2011 school year when funding expired from a Federal Recovery Act Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program, according to an Ottawa Police Department news release.

Ottawa school officials could not provide partial funding to retain the position, and the police department could not absorb the additional financial obligation, the news release said. School and police department officials said the decision to end the program was mutual because of reduced state funding to public schools and because of uncertain local economic conditions, according to the release.

“This grant funding allows the police department and USD 290 to resume a valuable program designed to increase the likelihood of a safe learning environment for our students established and maintained for many years previously,” Dennis Butler, Ottawa police chief, said. “This safer school environment enhances our ability to prevent and solve crime, and provides opportunities to promote safer student behaviors even when not in school. The Seatbelts Are for Everyone Program and Dating Violence Prevention classes are just two examples.”

Jeanne Stroh, superintendent of Ottawa schools, said the school district was pleased the SRO program could resume this year.

“We are all committed to safety in our schools and in the community,” Stroh said. “We know that having an SRO in the district not only provides a safer learning environment but also builds a positive relationship with law enforcement.”

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