Craig P.D. seeks expansion of school officer program

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The Craig Police Department is pursuing a grant to expand its resource officer program in the Moffat County school system.

The grant, which Craig police say they'll seek through the federal Cops in Schools fund, would pay for an additional officer who would work exclusively with students and staff at Craig's elementary schools.

The school district and city pay the salaries for the department's two current resource officers, who, while assigned duties at the elementary school level, find most of their time devoted to issues at Moffat County High School, Craig Middle School and Craig Intermediate School, according to police.

"The longer we're in the schools, the more they make use of our time but we're just so busy (at MCHS, CIS and Craig Middle School)," said Carolyn Wade, who has worked three years as a resource officer.

If successful in the grant application, Craig Police Capt. Jerry Delong said the grant would allocate $125,000 toward the new position for three years. The Craig City Council already has approved picking up 75 percent of the cost for the position after the grant expires. The school district would cover 25 percent of remaining costs. Resource officers' duties extend far beyond law enforcement. Occasionally, Wade said she finds herself filling in for absent teachers during various personal emergencies.

"Some of it is mediation, heading off fights before it comes to the point of being a problem," Wade said.

"Before the program we only knew the kids who got into trouble."

But time and education efforts are limited at the elementary school level because of fewer criminal matters there, and obligations elsewhere, she said.

Each of the district's reported fight incidents -- from fifth grade and up -- are referred to the department's resource officers.

The conflicts reflect changing times, Wade said.

"There's no more swats in the principal's office, and they don't want shake hands and make up after ... now they want to blow up each others' house up."

A new officer at the elementary schools could reach children at younger ages with anti-drug messages, such as the D.A.R.E. program, while also building positive relationships with officers, she said.

Superintendent Pete Bergmann said the added officer could help fill voids left by the loss of two district-wide counselor positions for the coming year. The positions were dropped with the expiration of a three-year, $130,000 grant funding counselors only at the elementary school level.

Bergmann said each elementary school this year will still be

staffed with counselors at least four days each week.

"They've (officers) been a tremendous asset to help maintain a safe learning environment," he said.

Paul Shockley can be reached at 824-7031 or at pshockley@craigdailypress.com

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