By Angelo Parlove
Saline Area Schools and the Saline Police Department are still looking at an agreement that would place a police officer in district buildings within the City of Saline during the school year.
“We are still waiting to hear back from the schools whether this is going to happen or not, but all indications are that it’s going to,” Police Chief Larry Hrinik said.
The district and police department first put the public on notice of the pending deal when Superintendent Scot Graden discussed the matter at a city council meeting in early August 2016, where at the time, the city was seeking an agreement that would be cost neutral to their budget.
“I think in our meeting with Scot, we were very adamant that it had to be cost neutral, otherwise we couldn’t do it, and Scot understands that,” Hrinik told council members at a work session April 17, where the school resource officer – as the position is called – was brought up again.
The resource officer would service the Liberty School, alternative high school, middle school and elementary buildings located within the city. The officer would be uniformed, be present with a vehicle and assigned solely to serve the district for the full school year, as well as at times during the summer months.
The duties would go beyond the obvious benefits of safety issues alone, though. The plan would be for the resource officer to be largely at the central campus area, servicing the middle school and alternative high school, including being visible in the building and working with students before and after school.
During the school day, the officer would be scheduled throughout the K-3 buildings and Heritage School, providing leadership and respect lessons.
Under an agreement, Saline Area Schools would likely reimburse the city for 75 percent of the cost to add another officer to the staff. A current officer would be assigned to service the schools, while the new officer would be hired to replace those man hours within the department.
“The schools have tentatively agreed that they will pay 75 percent of the cost,” Hrinik said. “If you look at it, they get the officer for 75 percent of the time, so that seems fair to us.”
With the resource officer assigned to the district for the entire school year and some summer programming, that officer would then be available to pick up duties within the city during the summer months, such as special assignments, Safety Town and selective traffic enforcement.
“There’s things the officer could do that right now we take him off the road to do. We won’t actually have to do that, and we’ll have an extra body which will be great,” Hrinik said. “There is all kinds of things we will be able to do with this SRO in the summertime.”
The school resource officer will be an administrative appointment by the police chief, with a three year assignment. After three years, a different officer would be rotated into the position.
“We never want to have somebody stuck in a position, somebody who does that position for life. That’s not necessarily good for them, that’s not necessarily good for the school,” Hrinik said. “After a three-year stint in any position, my theory is to rotate them out and let somebody else in with fresh ideas.”
When a deal is finally reached, Graden has previously indicated Officer David Ringe would be the district’s choice for the resource officer. Ringe currently teaches the TEAM program, which is the successor program to DARE.
Through TEAM – which stands for Teaching, Educating and Mentoring – Ringe goes into each classroom in the city schools, kindergarten through eighth grade, giving lessons on laws, social rules and behaviors.
TEAM, now in its second year, allows Ringe to meet with K-8 students each year, as opposed to the prior DARE program, where police officers instructed kids only in fourth or fifth grade.
“Officer Ringe goes into the schools and teaches at every one of those grade levels every year,” Hrinik said. “It is a great program. Officer Ringe gets to see everybody from kindergarten through 8th grade. He touches them at least once a year, which is wonderful as opposed to just seeing them in the fourth or fifth grade.”
Saline Area Schools already has an agreement with Pittsfield Township for a resource officer at the high school.