Neatherlin Calls for School Resource Officers

Mason County Commissioner Randy Neatherlin is calling for the County, Sheriff’s Office and school districts to form a team of School Resource Officers. The following in the Commissioner’s statement asking for the creation of a squad of School Resource Officers and possible way to fund it.

Call for a School Resource Officers Squad

From Mason County Commissioner Randy Neatherlin

Given the incident in Parkland, Florida and the recent incidents locally at our own elementary, middle and high schools, it has become necessary to shift from a position of opinion to a position of action. I am calling on the Mason County Board of Commissioners (BOCC), the Mason County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) and our county’s School Districts to work together and organize a team of 5 to 12 School Resource Officers in an effort to protect our kids.

I request that the BOCC and the MCSO, as soon as possible, create and place into our budget, 5 part time (0.5 FTE each) positions to establish a School Resource Officer Squad. These would be part time positions comprised of and created from our retired Law Enforcement Officers throughout our community. These honored members of our community are trusted counselors and mentors to our children.

A team of Resource Officers can be used as educators in safety and security and to identify and mitigate problems before they flare out of control, as well as being individuals trained to protect our vulnerable children.

North Mason School District is currently working with the Sheriff and is considering supplementing funds to the County for one full time School Resource Officer for the middle and high school campus.

This initial part time squad of School Resource Officers could be made available to Southside, Hood Canal, Pioneer, Mary M. Knight, Grapeview, and the North Mason Elementary Schools.

The School Resource Officers would be armed and commissioned members of the Sheriff’s Office utilizing their career experience and status in the community.  They would work as a connection between the students, teachers, parents and the Sheriff’s office to counsel, mentor, coach and protect our students. They can provide a valuable resource to school staff members, fostering positive relationships with our youth, developing strategies to resolve problems affecting our youth, provide opportunities to share information regarding illegal and illicit activities and, most importantly, protecting our students, so that they can safely reach their fullest potentials.

One of the challenges in making this a reality is the current environment of limited revenues. The “squad” would have part time status and considering variables such as numbers of days worked per year, benefits, retirement requirements and numbers of staff, the cost of a 12 member squad could be as high as $360,000. The initial squad of 5 part time officers will cost approximately $165,000. Having Sheriff vehicles prominent in front of schools is an important deterrent and the use of older surplus vehicles will increase the cost slightly.

To meet the funding requirement of a full contingent, a commitment from the School Districts, the BOCC and the Sheriff needs to be made.  All these organizations need to recognize the priority of this issue and work together to find the funds to implement this program.

To meet the initial requirement of $165,000 for 5 part time officers, the Mason County Sheriff should consider re-prioritization in the use of his administrative funding.  The Mason County Sheriff currently maintains a corps of 5 Chiefs in a county of only 60K people. Other counties with greater populations [Island, 80K; Clallam,75K; Grays Harbor,72K; Cowlitz,100K and even much larger counties like Kitsap (260K people) and Pierce County with a whopping 845K people] manage with only 3 Chiefs. Each fully burdened Chief position costs the county about $145,000 per year.

By reprioritizing the safety of our children over excessive command staff positions, we can almost fund the entire initial School Resource Officer Squad immediately. For the initial squad, we will still need to supplement the budget with an additional $20,000. To achieve the desired full staffing of 12, additional funding from the school districts is needed.

My proposal is to have the BOCC and the MCSO find within their 2018 Budgets the money needed to fund this initial “squad” and ask the Sheriff to reduce his Command Staff Budget by at least 1 Chief and use this reduction to complete the funding requirement.

Protecting our children has to be the highest priority of our community.   My challenge is to request the School Districts, the Mason County Sheriff and the Board of County Commissioners to work together and implement this crucial program for the safety and well-being (emotionally and physically) of our children.