Police officers to remain presence at schools

Grants run out; school, city to split salary costs

Funding that allowed the Craig Police Department to put an officer in Moffat County schools will end this year.

But that does not mean the program will come to a close, Craig Police Chief Walt Vanatta said.

"There will be no change," Vanatta said. "Funding will be divided between us the school district."

The chief said the financial situation would not create any reorganization within the department, either.

The police department had been awarded two Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grants - a $125,000 grant to aid in implementing the COPS in Schools (CIS) program, and a $75,000 grant for the COPS Funding Accelerated for Smaller Towns (FAST) program.

Vanatta said the grants were used to hire new school resource officers for the Moffat County School District.

Funding provided by the CIS grant will expire at the end of the year. The FAST grant expired in 1999-2000.

There are currently two police officers assigned as school resource officers.

Vanatta said the police department has already assumed the salary for the first officer. The police department and the school district will pick up the salary for the second officer when the CIS grant expires. The city will contribute 25 percent of the $50,000 annual salary, with the school district paying the rest.

Vanatta said there are currently no plans to apply for additional COPS grants.

"We are not going to seek anymore," Vanatta said. "Primarily because I am not comfortable going and asking the city council, in another three years, to fund another officer. At this point, I'm uncomfortable justifying the need for another officer."

Vanatta said CIS grants are still available, however, a governing body, like the city council, must guarantee adequate funding for the additional officer(s) after the grant runs out.

The CIS program is designed to assist law enforcement agencies in hiring additional school resource officers for policing in and around primary and secondary schools. The program includes incentives that encourage law enforcement agencies to build collaborative alliances within the school community.

The Craig Police Department received the maximum federal CIS grant contribution. The money is based on one position over a three-year period. The purpose of the COPS FAST program is to provide three years of funding to state law enforcement agencies to make the hiring of additional officers or deputies possible. The grants are awarded to communities with populations of fewer than 50,000 residents. To receive the grant, the Craig Police Department had to contribute a minimum of 25 percent in matching funds.

Vanatta said the grants have been instrumental in assisting the Craig Police Department.

"They have helped considerably," Vanatta said. "Without them, we would not have been able to implement these programs and add officers."

Moffat County Board of Education President Phil Hastings said the presence of officers within the school district is valuable.

"I think it's a great benefit to the school district to have school resource officers present," Hastings said. "It gives students the chance to meet officers in a different environment, develop a relationship, and head off possible problems before they escalate. Most importantly, I think it prevents antagonistic attitudes that are sometimes present between police and kids."

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