Police department receies grant

Money used to fund additional school resource officer

Parents worried about their children's safety in Moffat County schools have one less reason to be concerned.

The Craig Police Department was awarded a $125,000 grant to put an extra officer in Craig schools.

The Craig Police Department is one of only six departments in Colorado to receive funding in this grant cycle.

The grants are part of the Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), which has funded more than 100,000 officers around the country, including 1,100 officers in Colorado. The COPS has several granting programs. The local grant was given under the COPS in Schools program, which funds the hiring of community policing officers to work in primary and secondary schools.

A similar grant was used in 1996 to hire the first school resource officer in Moffat County, but school officials and Craig Police Department Chief Walt Vanatta saw a need for another.

"Since the inception of the program, it has expanded on its own," Vanatta said.

The original school resource officer was hired to work at the high school, but is providing services to students in all schools.

"That's diluting the program where (Anthony) couldn't keep up with the demand," Vanatta said.

In preparing for this grant, School Resource Officer Michael Anthony compiled a list of his duties and the time spent on each. Attending club meetings, making class presentations, investigating juvenile crime reports, participating in youth programs are just part a school resource officer's job, according to Anthony.

"The school resource officer is a community role model and is present to provide a positive image of the police department. Their presence also allows contact between the students and a police officer in a non-controversial setting," Anthony said.

The grant will allow the school and police department to expand the school resource officer position to include more functions, Vanatta said. He and school district Superintendent Duane Wrightson had worked up some general job guidelines, but did not plan to finish until notified they had received the grant.

The $125,000 grant will fully pay for the officer for two years. The third year, the police department will provide a $5,000 match. After three years, the school district and the police department will co-fund the position at a 75 percent to 25 percent ratio, respectively.

Even with the funds, Vanatta doesn't believe another officer will be in the schools until the 2001-2002 school year. He plans to use an existing officer as the school resource officer, but will not make the transfer until another officer is hired and trained to take over patrol duties. That in itself could be a long-term process because the department is experiencing problems finding qualified people.

"It might take us two months just to hire someone, assuming we get good candidates," Vanatta said.

The patrol officer would then have to participate in a three-month field training program.

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