School budget plan includes cops on campuses

March 30, 2007|by MATTHEW UMSTEAD

MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - Police officers are expected to be stationed at each of Berkeley County's three high schools beginning in August in a move to improve campus safety and ultimately help combat crime elsewhere.

Rick Deuell, assistant superintendent for Berkeley County Schools, said Thursday that the school district's proposed spending plan for the 2007-08 fiscal year includes $150,000 for its share of the three officers' salaries, benefits and equipment.

The school board has proposed respective 200-day contracts with the City of Martinsburg and the Berkeley County Commission that will allow the assigned officers to work elsewhere when school is out of session.

While city and county budgets were approved earlier this week, the Board of Education is expected to vote on the school district's plan April 30, Deuell said.


"Things are different now than they used to be," Deuell said of the need for security in the wake of school shootings across the nation in recent years.

Berkeley County Commissioners Steven C. Teufel, Ronald K. Collins and William L. "Bill" Stubblefield on Thursday stopped short of approving the proposed contract for Hedgesville and Musselman high schools until final editing of the agreement was complete. The commission still decided to allow Sheriff W. Randy Smith to move forward with hiring two new deputies.

Smith and Martinsburg Police Department Chief T.C. "Ted" Anderson separately described the collaboration as a "win-win situation," and noted the additional benefit of manpower when school is out for the summer and holidays.

Anderson said an experienced city officer would be stationed at Martinsburg High School, and also would patrol other city campuses.

"We're not just going to put a brand new rookie out there," Anderson said.

Smith envisioned a similar arrangement for Hedgesville and Musselman high schools, which are close to other county schools.

Though not part of Gov. Joe Manchin's $10 million initiative to enhance school security, Deuell said the state program subsequently approved by lawmakers earlier this month essentially allowed for money to be earmarked for the school officers.

Through the state-sponsored program, Deuell said he and other administrators are planning to "restrict and harden" the entrances and exits at all schools and secure portable classrooms as well.

Deuell said the collaboration with local police agencies will eliminate an increasingly daunting effort to hire private security guards, who do not have powers of arrest.

While Martinsburg High School's principal 10 years ago, Deuell said the sprawling South Queen Street campus accommodated a "city police auxiliary" station that he said was a success, if only for a little over a year.

"What really ended that was the inability to keep up with the hiring of police officers," said Deuell, noting struggles by area law-enforcement agencies to retain staff.

"It was neat," Deuell said. "That was kind of the model for this."

Deuell acknowledged that all of Berkeley County's schools "at one time or another have fights," but insisted that the school district does not have a large amount of crime at its campuses.

Smith on Thursday could not immediately provide annual statistics on how many complaints his department had handled at schools in Berkeley County. West Virginia State Police did not immediately respond to a request for similar information on Thursday.

According to the Martinsburg Police Department's 2005 activity report, city officers received 28 complaints about juveniles who were truant from school. In 2001, the department received 14 such reports, according to records.

Anderson was not able to provide a statistical overview of the total number of calls for service at school campuses in Martinsburg.

"It's probably inched up a little bit," Anderson said.

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