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City police to patrol high schools

April 26, 2002|BY TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

North and South Hagerstown high schools will be staffed with full-time city police officers in the next school year in an effort to speed up response time for school calls and promote safety throughout the schools' communities.

Hagerstown Police Lt. Gary Spielman said Thursday afternoon the department has received a three-year, $425,000 Cops in Schools grant to put one officer in North and another in South.

The department was awarded the grant from the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, which is a branch of the U.S. Department of Justice.

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"It'll help with the schools and the police department," Spielman said. "We get two extra officers for the department."

The two positions are called school resource officers, and veteran members of the force will fill the slots. The department will hire and train two new officers to take the place of the veterans, Spielman said.

The school resource officers probably won't be in place until midway through the next school year, he said.

"This is going to give us a police link right here in the building," Boyd J. Michael III, the Washington County Board of Education's director of secondary education, said Thursday afternoon.

Lt. Tom Alexander said during a Thursday morning meeting at North High that the resource officers will have several duties, including giving classroom presentations on law and safety awareness to students, working with the schools' probation officers and handling disruptive students.

"He's not going to sit in an office somewhere and do something," Alexander said. "He's supposed to be proactive."

Alexander discussed the role of the officers during a North High Improvement Team meeting with Hagerstown Deputy Fire Chief Rick Kipe and security research expert Jerry Iannacci, Principal David Reeder and other school personnel.

Reeder said the officers will strengthen the school's comprehensive safety plan that's already in place.

South High Principal Michael Shockey said it will allow students to get to know police officers.

"To me, it would be a tremendous relief to know that there's a police officer in the schools at all times," Alexander said.

Spielman said the officers will respond to calls from other schools within the North High and South High districts, including Northern, Western Heights and E. Russell Hicks middle schools.

School Board member Paul Bailey said Thursday afternoon that having the officers in the buildings will improve the relationship between the police department and the schools.

"I think they can accomplish a great deal together," Bailey said. "I'm sure it will be recognized by the staff and the parents as being a positive."

School Board member J. Herbert Hardin said having the officers in the schools might help keep incidents from happening.

"I think they can do a lot to prevent things from happening," Hardin said. "I see nothing but good coming with that. I think it will let students know that they're a positive force in the community."

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