I am excited to inform our community of the return of the School Resource Officer program to the Miles City Unified School District. The funding for this program, the COPS Hiring Program Grant, administered by the Department of Justice, had been on hold due to the issuance of a nationwide injunction by a U.S. District Court regarding immigration factors that were included in the 2017 CHP Solicitation. Many agencies have been patiently waiting for these funds to once again be freed up.
I started the application process on February 5, 2020. After nearly five weeks of completing each step of the process, on March 9, 2020 I submitted the application for the grant. On June 3, 2020, I received the great news of the grant award for the Miles City Police Department. What does this mean? The COPS Hiring Program Grant awards the city funding for three years, up to 75% of the approved entry level salary and benefits for a newly hired officer, with a 25% match requirement for the city. With the grant, the City of Miles City will receive $125,000 over a three-year period and allows the Miles City Police Department to hire an extra officer. This allows us to place a full time, sworn officer into the Miles City school system as a full time School Resource Officer.
School Resource Officers are collaborators with school officials, parents, and students. The SRO is a law enforcement officer, a counselor and an educator. The SRO assists the school administration in maintaining a safe and secure environment. As a counselor, the SRO conducts street level, law related counseling such as giving information on how to obtain a protective order, or to help resolve problems not related to criminal matters. As an educator, the SRO can serve as a resource by conducting classroom presentations which can complement the school curriculum as well as allowing the SRO to interact with students. The contact the SRO has with the students in the classroom can be a very positive experience.
For school safety, the SRO can take a tremendous burden off the school officials by managing the daily task of school safety and security. The SRO can provide active threat analysis and school vulnerability assessments on an on-going basis.
The value of SRO’s in the schools cannot be denied. The effective measure of success is the absence of crime, reduction of fear and building of trust within the community. When schools, communities and law enforcement agencies work together to creatively tackle problems, they may be able to achieve a number of positive outcomes, including gathering and analyzing useful and timely information about crime and fear in schools, working together to develop long term approaches to reducing and preventing different kinds of crime in and around the schools and preventing unnecessary law enforcement involvement in non-criminal student misbehavior. By implementing these strategies, we can improve the quality of life for those affected (students, teachers, school personnel and parents).
Our SRO will attend the National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO) basic training. This 40- hour certified course instruction will emphasize three main areas which include functioning as a police officer in the school setting, working as a resource and problem solver and developing teaching skills.
Officer Steve Fenner, a 17-year law enforcement veteran, will be our School Resource Officer. For students and parents, you may know Officer Fenner already. If you do not, your student will soon become familiar with him as he works on building positive relationships within the Miles City Unified School District. We hope to foster a great partnership with all those involved for the current school year and ones to follow.