WPD takes over School Resource Officer assignment

The Humboldt County School District (HCSD) board of directors approved an interlocal agreement with Winnemucca Police Department (WPD) to make the School Resource Officer (SRO) part of WPD. The Winnemucca City Council approved the agreement during its Nov. 21 meeting.

WPD Chief Dalley called the move a “win-win” for all parties involved. The contract benefits HCSD by having other WPD officers available to fill in if necessary. And WPD benefits from the help of another officer during the summer months when school is out. Dalley said while summer is busiest for the police department, the SRO’s responsibilities are relatively light.

The assignment also gives WPD officers an avenue for other assignments within the department aside from detective or patrolman, Dalley said.

The SRO helps maintain safety on campuses and during school-related events. HCSD’s current SRO Chuck Jones teaches students about the effects of drugs and alcohol through the DARE program, assists with traffic control in school zones and helps with the school district’s crisis response plan. The SRO’s office is at Lowry High School but Jones travels to wherever he is needed.

When school lets out for the summer months, the SRO remains on duty, dealing with evidence, responding to and reporting school break-ins and vandalism incidents and updating the district’s safety manual. Rural schools receive support from the Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office.

“One of the big benefits, I think, is the police department will be more in tune with the school district and what’s going on,” board member John Hill said. Dalley agreed.

The SRO position is somewhat isolated from the police department, Dalley said. This new arrangement will give the SRO more access to other officers to discuss issues. It also helps the police department address incidents at the schools more quickly.

“This position has been isolated in the past and this gives them somewhere to go to, well, sometimes just to soundboard a certain situation,” the chief explained.

The SRO assignment may rotate every three years. This gives the assigned officer time to learn the norms of the role and develop rapport and continuity with the students and staff.

Current SRO Jones has fulfilled two and a half years of his three year contract and HCSD Superintendent Dave Jensen said the district and police department are considering assigning a new SRO for the 2018-2019 school year. In the meantime, WPD will send interested officers to SRO training to ensure they are prepared when the next contract opens up.

HCSD will pay the City of Winnemucca for the SRO services, which includes the use of a vehicle. The remainder of the 2017-2018 school year is prorated at $68,000. Payment for the following years is as follows:

$113,000 July 1, 2018 - June 30, 2019

$116,000 July 1, 2019 - June 30, 2020

$119,000 July 1, 2020 - June 30, 2021

$122,000 July 1, 2021 - June 30, 2022

Dalley said the program will grow and evolve over time to meet the needs of the position, the district and the police department. Having the SRO under WPD direction will also help create consistency in enforcement and training, he added.

“I am excited about it,” Dalley said. “I think it’s very positive for the community.”