County committee backs plan for school deputy

Resource officer who would serve Fredonia district, other schools without program, seen as proactive policing
Ozaukee Press staff

The Ozaukee County Sheriff’s Department should hire a deputy to serve as its school resource officer, the Public Safety Committee agreed Tuesday.

The officer would work primarily at the Northern Ozaukee School District schools, including the Riveredge school, Divine Savior School in Fredonia and St. Francis Borgia School in Cedarburg — the only schools in the county without a municipal school resource officer – Undersheriff Christy Knowles said.

Supr. Joshua Haas, a committee member who represents Fredonia on the County Board, said the position is important.

“This is definitely needed,” he said. “We as a village can’t afford something like this full time.”

Supr. Pat Foy said the need today is greater than ever to balance out all the negative things students are exposed to.

“We can either put the money upfront or spend two or three times that amount to try to correct the problems that result,” Supr. Rick Nelson, the committee chairman, said.

The Northern Ozaukee School District has asked for a school resource officer for the last couple years, Knowles said, noting that the department currently assigns one of its part-time court services officers to work in the schools two to three days a week.

“We’re basically robbing him (the school officer) from court services unit,” she said.

But, she said, the benefits are worthwhile.

The officer not only helps ensure school safety, he also helps build relationships with students, Knowles said.

She recalled one first-grader who tugged on her pants, then asked, “Why are you so  nice? Police officers aren’t supposed to be nice.”

“We see a benefit immediately with relationship building,” Knowles said. “It’s important to reach our kids early. We have seen the positive impact.”

Students, she said, need to have advocates.

But school safety is paramount, Knowles added, noting that historically there are fewer violent incidents in schools with resource officers.

“You can’t stop everything but it will help and hopefully curtail it,” she said.

The officer isn’t in the schools to discipline students or just to write tickets, although they will help deal with issues.

The officers are especially important today, since students often come to school with anxiety due to the violence they see and the pressures of today.

The Sheriff’s Office sought a resource officer last year when the 2022 budget was prepared, Sheriff Jim Johnson said, but the request was denied.

The resource officer would come from the department’s patrol division and be assigned full-time to the schools from the end of August through early June, Knowles said.

During the summer, the deputy would either serve as a patrol officer, help with the parks or handle special events.

“This is still up in the air,” she said.

The cost of the officer will be paid by the department and the schools, Knowles said, noting the school districts have signed a memorandum of understanding outlining the cost sharing and other details of the program.

The officer will spend 68% of his time in the schools, and the school districts will pay half of that cost and the sheriff’s office will pick up the rest.

The sheriff’s department would pick up the full cost of the officer during the summer, bringing its share of the position to about $80,000 with the schools paying about $40,000, she said.

Knowles said the officer could be in place in time for the fall semester, an anticipated cost of $33,000 for this year.

Next year, the cost would be about $79,000.

Hiring the officer this year would allow him to train under the current, part-time resource officer, who is retiring in February, Knowles said.

The position is one that officers seek out, she added, noting she gets a weekly email from one officer in the patrol division asking if the job has been approved yet.

The position still needs to be approved by the County Board.



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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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