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Greencastle chief wants officer in schools

June 16, 2009|By KATE S. ALEXANDER

GREENCASTLE, Pa. -- Now that the Greencastle Police Department is handling more than 100 calls from the Greencastle-Antrim School District during the school year, Chief John Phillippy said he wants to put a full-time officer in the schools.

School resource officers have begun to pepper the educational landscape in the last decade and at least three Franklin County school districts have already welcomed such officers into their halls.

A school resource officer is more than a police officer, said Waynesboro School Resource Officer Travis Carbaugh.

"Being in the schools is about building relationships with the kids," he said. "The omnipresence of an officer can deter a kid from doing something criminal."

Waynesboro Police Chief Mark King said Carbaugh has been in the Waynesboro School District for only a year.

While King does not have data measuring Carbaugh's impact on juvenile crime, he said he is confident that the officer is making a difference.

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"I can't always measure it (Carbaugh's impact), but I know the schools are more peaceful," he said. "I know he is having an impact."

Phillippy said he wants that same impact in the Greencastle-Antrim School district and he has already taken steps to gain funding for the position.

A school resource officer would cost the department about $60,000 each year, Phillippy said.

To offset that cost, he has applied for two grants that would fund the position for the first few years.

It is not likely that Greencastle would be awarded both grants. Should that happen, however, Phillippy said he would have to choose just one grant.

King said Waynesboro took advantage of a similar grant through the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency to fund Carbaugh's position.

James Buchanan High School also funded its school resource officer through a grant, Principal Rodney Benedick said.

However, no grant will fund the position forever, Phillippy said.

As a contingency plan for when grant funding runs out, Phillippy said he is organizing a meeting with members of the Greencastle-Antrim School Board and the Antrim Township Board of Supervisors to discuss splitting the cost of the officer, who would be serving both entities, plus the Borough of Greencastle.

Regardless of who pays the bill, the wages and benefits of a full-time officer are a small price to pay for the priceless benefits of having an officer in the school, Benedick said.

"I cannot say enough about Officer (Joe) Cox and the work he does," Benedick said. "We only have a few administrators, and he is an extra set of eyes keeping watch over our kids."

The duties of a school resource officer can differ from school to school, Carbaugh said.

In Waynesboro, Carbaugh said he patrols the halls, responds to incidents and teaches an occasional class.

Greencastle-Antrim School District President Dan Fisher said his board has discussed the idea of a school resource officer and ways to fund the position, but has not made a decision on the issue.

"Personally, and I am just speaking for me, I think it (a school resource officer) is a great idea," he said.

The Greencastle Borough Council also has not formally expressed its position on the school resource officer idea, but it did authorize Phillippy to apply for the grants and to meet with other local officials to discuss funding the position in the absence of a grant.

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