USD 475 officials reached out and met with Sheriff Tony Wolf today regarding a series of media articles citing his proposal to place one or more law enforcement officers in each school.
The District is supportive of programs that could help maintain a safe and secure learning environment and officials felt it was time to properly shape expectations, given that Wolf recently suggested the use of Heavy Impact Aid (HIA) dollars provided by the Army as a means for paying for his initiative.
David Wild, Chief Operations Officer for the District explained that Wolf’s suggestion on funding introduces complexities to the initiative. The District HIA dollars are non-recurring monies designated to support the construction of the new high school and are not used to support ongoing or reoccurring efforts such as salaries or permanent programs.
Wild further explained that the District liability insurance provider does not recognize a District security force. Law enforcement personnel in its schools must be assigned and tasked by a properly recognized law enforcement entity such as the Junction City Police Department or the Geary County Sheriff’s Office. Assignment, training, and tasking authority must come from either of those agencies and cannot come from USD 475.
“While meeting with Tony, I offered a concern that District funding of the proposed initiative may be perceived by the insurance industry and legal system as a means of bypassing proper law enforcement channels. Education, not law enforcement, is the core competency of USD 475. We should work together to make sure the lines of effort between the District and Law Enforcement remain clear,” Wild stated.
The District expressed additional concerns regarding jurisdictional issues between the JCPD, Sherriff’s Office, and Fort Riley law enforcement. Should Wolf’s proposal be adopted, questions regarding jurisdictional primacy would require some form of a Memorandum of Understanding between law enforcement agencies with the District, as the supported entity, also as a signatory to that agreement.
Upon initial hearing of Wolf’s proposal through media outlets, the District prepared a cursory cost impact assessment reflecting an estimated annual cost approaching $1M to place an officer or more in each District school. With 19 schools the minimal cost of this effort, assuming a cost of $50,000 per officer, approaches $1M in annual expense. Wild added that at this level of cost it would require a five mill tax increase to either the county or city taxing authority.
Geary County Schools has been in the process of updating and renewing the District School Resource Officer agreement which is up for renewal at the end of the current fiscal year. The District initiated renewal discussions with JCPD late this past winter. When finalized the new agreement commencing July 1, 2018, will reflect the placement of an officer at the City Middle School, Freshman Success Academy, and Junction City High School. A fourth officer will continue to support the D.A.R.E program funded through grant monies.