Center Grove administrators want one of their three full-time police officers to walk through each school building every school day.
Center Grove Police Chief Ray Jackson’s goal is to introduce himself to students and start relationships with them, but he and the other officers are typically responding to another five or 10 calls per day.
To get them more help, the school district is looking for residents to work as volunteer officers — unpaid reserve officers who can still arrest people and carry a gun.
Center Grove school district will expand the schools’ police department by adding reserve officers. School officials want to add at least three volunteer officers, who are fully trained as a police officer.
Applicants will need to complete the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office reserve academy and have previously worked as a police officer, firefighter or emergency medical technician, said Center Grove assistant superintendent Bill Long.
“I think our concern was being extremely selective on who would apply for a position like that,” Long said.
Reserve officers would be expected to volunteer at least 40 hours per month directing traffic, providing security during sporting events and helping police officers with investigations or visiting the school buildings, Long said.
The goal is to have a police officer walk through all eight school buildings on a daily basis so students can develop a trusting relationship with officers, Jackson said. Carving out time for that is difficult when officers are called on daily to talk to students, break up fights, run background checks on visitors or meet with parents and their child if the student acts out in class, Jackson said.
The reserve officers will be provided a handgun, taser and radio that the police department already owns but will not be given a police vehicle, Long said. Reserve officers also will receive one police uniform, which will be paid for by the school district for about $300 per person. Although the reserve officers are not getting paid, the school district will have to pay $500 per volunteer to cover liability of the officer, Long said.
Before being considered for the reserve officer position, people must have finished the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office reserve academy, which the officer will pay for out of their own pocket, Long said. School officials expect the reserve officers to also continue with additional training, such as school resource officer training, once they join the police department, Long said. The additional training is usually offered locally for free, but if the training costs money, the school district will cover the fee, he said.
If any of the full-time police officers left the department or school officials decided to expand the number of paid officers, the volunteers would be the first people considered for a paid position, Long said. Hiring another police officer would cost the school district $29,000 to $41,000 per year, according to the school district’s compensation paperwork for the 2015-16 school year.
Long wants to start by recommending one or two people to the school board in May and add three or four reserve officers during the next two years, he said.
Three full-time officers work for the Center Grove Police Department. Adding reserve officers would allow full-time officers to do other work such as visit the schools, investigate if they think a crime was committed or inspect lockers or cars for drugs. For example, if all three police officers are directing traffic during the mornings and afternoons, no officers are left over to be inside the school buildings, Long said.
“There’s times where we’re on calls at the high school for two to three hours on an investigation,” Center Grove Officer Evan Preston said. “To have that extra person, that extra body to be able to make it to other schools and field other calls would be huge for us.”
Requirements to be a reserve officer for the Center Grove Schools Police Department:
Pass a physical fitness test, including push-ups, sit-ups and a 400-meter run
Pass a written exam
Complete the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office reserve academy, which includes 190 hours of training
Have prior experience working as a police officer, firefighter or emergency medical technician