Kent School District looks to add new resource officer presence

Alicia Crabtree

The Kent City School District is in the process of obtaining a school resource officer position for Theodore Roosevelt High School and Stanton Middle School.

Kent Police Chief Michelle Lee says the Kent City School District approached the local Kent Police Department last year about the idea of adding a school resource officer.

“We started talking about ‘Would we be able to dedicate an officer to that position, what would it take?’” Lee said. “Although there are a lot of school systems around us that have school resource officers, we have not done that yet. So we were almost one of the last departments, or last cities, to sort of jump on board with that idea and so we really seriously started having some discussions about it last fall.”

Though, Lee said the local school system has enjoyed a lot of good cooperation with the students over the years. 

“I mean, it’s a good school system and they haven’t necessarily needed one [a school resource officer], they don’t necessarily need one now.” Lee said. “But there have been a lot of school incidents lately and the more security, the better. That’s what they’re thinking and we don’t disagree.”

Jim Soyars, director of business services of the Kent City School District, explained how everyone is aware of all of the situations and issues as of late, pointing to Kent State University’s on-campus shooting on April 2.

“This was something that we were discussing with different parent groups and administrators,” Soyars said. “We felt that this is something that we feel would be beneficial for our students and for our schools.”

Lee said depending on the school system, a school resource officer’s role can vary, but generally he or she most effective in middle schools or high schools.

“They’re a police officer employed by the local police jurisdiction and then assigned to a school and basically what they do is law enforcement,” Lee said. “They do counseling sessions with students, they become part of a faculty per say, but depending on what the school is and what the school system needs, it varies from some other jobs.”

Soyars said when the school resource officer is going to be in the schools, he or she is going to be aid.

“They’re not going to be involved in the discipline part of things, that’s going to still be run by our administrators,” Soyars said. “But while they’re there, when there’s an assault or something happens that normally the police would be involved, then that school resource officer would take care of that onsite.”

However, Soyars said the officer wouldn’t just be patrolling the hallways either.

“There’s a number of different ways, other than just being a physical presence and other than being a help to the administrative team, just getting to know everyone and kind of being there and in our schools and kind of embedded,” Soyars said. “I think it’s going to be a great thing all around.”

Lee said that because the Kent Police Department plans on hiring an additional position for the role of school resource officer, it’s not going to be impacting the staffing at all and will actually probably add to the staffing.

“When the assigned officer is not in the school system, they’re either going to have the option to take a day off or work on the roads,” said Lee. “So we’ll see an additional police officer from time to time. It’ll be a positive impact.”

Currently, the Kent Police Department is working with the school system to narrow down program initiatives and the agreement, or Memorandum of Understanding, between the two entities on the position.

“There are a lot of legal issues that we have to discuss and put in writing,” Lee said. “Once the school system and the city sort of finalize those agreements, then we’ll be taking it to City Council for their approval of it.”

Soyars is confident that the new school resource officer will be in place by the start of the next school year.

“We would love to have this person, if we can even bring him or her out right at the end of the school year, just to introduce [him or her] to our staff and students,” Soyars said. “But we will definitely have this person in place once the school year starts in August.”

This new position, Soyars said, which will be paid for by the Kent City School District, is really something that they feel they want.

“It’s so helpful to have this person that everyone’s going to get to know really well, that’s going to be here, be a presence and is going to be right here onsite,” Soyars said. “Not only at the high school and the middle school, but we’re looking at how this person can help us as a district. I think it’ll be a big benefit to have a resource officer here.”

Contact Alicia Crabtree at [email protected].