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School officials to hire third person for force in wake of tragedy


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The county’s only school police department is adding an officer in an effort to have more security at each school building.

The Center Grove Police Deparment, which was formed in 2006, is adding a third full-time officer. The department has had two officers since it was formed and always had planned to add a third, assistant superintendent Bill Long and Superintendent Richard Arkanoff said.

Adding the officer, who is expected to be hired by the end of February, became a priority after last month’s shootings at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., officials said.

“We just felt it’d be appropriate to pump it up,” Arkanoff said.

CENTER GROVE SECURITY

Center Grove schools are planning to add a third officer to the school district’s police department. Here are the details:

Cost of the new officer: $47,500, including benefits

Will be hired: By the end of February

Why: Center Grove had planned to add a third security officer since the police department started in 2006 but made hiring the new officer a priority after the Newtown, Conn., shootings last month.

What will this mean for the police force: One officer will now patrol the high school, another officer will patrol the two middle schools, and a third will patrol Center Grove’s elementary schools.

What do the officers do: The officers, who are graduates of the police academy and carry firearms, respond to emergency situations at any of Center Grove’s buildings. When needed, they also can intervene with domestic issues that arrive at school, such as if parents are having an argument over visitation.

Number of calls Center Grove police received last school year: 127

What these involved: Anything from lockouts to an arrest.

The new officer is the latest move by Center Grove to increase building security. Last month, the school district announced it would add cameras, buzzers or other security measures at school buildings to make them more secure.

Adding an officer means Center Grove now can have one officer patrolling the high school, another who will respond to calls at both middle schools and a third officer who would be sent to the elementary schools. Response time for an emergency at any of the schools should decrease, Arkanoff and Long said.

“We think we can be in more of the buildings on a regular basis,” Long said.

The new officer will be paid a salary of $28,000, and the total cost for the district including benefits, such as health insurance, will be about $47,500. The school district will pay for the new officer this year using money in savings before adding the position to next year’s budget. Center Grove still should be able to keep about 4 percent of its total budget in savings, even after adding the position, Chief Financial Officer Paul Gabriel said.

The Indiana General Assembly is discussing whether the state should provide money to help schools pay for security officers, and if that happens Center Grove would apply for funding from the state, Arkanoff said.

Center Grove’s police officers are police academy graduates who carry firearms and can arrest students or adults. The department patrols and uses cameras to monitor what’s going on at each of Center Grove’s eight school buildings and is prepared to respond to emergency situations at any of the buildings. Last school year, officers responded to 127 calls, ranging from lockouts to arrests, Police Chief Ray Jackson said.

The officers also can get help from the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office if needed, Arkanoff said.

Center Grove police officers also have been called for situations involving students and families, such as parents going through custody battles trying to visit their students during lunch. The officers have to explain to families that those issues need to be resolved outside school, Arkanoff said.

Hiring a third officer means Center Grove’s police department can improve its response time to calls it receives. Currently, when a call comes in, an officer takes three to five minutes to respond, but those times will improve by adding an officer, Long said.

The school board voted 4-0 to approve the new position. Board member Susan Mullendore did not attend the meeting.

Arkanoff said the district is seeking candidates with police academy experience and, preferably, with experience working with students.

“They have to understand what it is working with kids versus working with the general public,” he said.

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