There won’t be a school resource officer walking the halls of Cocalico schools any time soon.
School board members have shown little interest in an offer from Denver Borough to split the cost of a police officer who would monitor the district’s five schools in addition to fulfilling other community responsibilities.
Several Denver officials broached the idea with the board at a meeting in November, but Superintendent Ella Musser, along with other school administrators and several board members, said they opposed the idea of bringing an armed officer into school because it would change the culture in Cocalico.
“We’re not saying we don’t value the police presence,” Musser said last week. “We certainly do, especially in an emergency. It’s just to have someone on staff doesn’t necessarily seem warranted with the number of incidents we have.”
Residents ask for resource officer
In an interview last week, Denver Borough Manager Mike Hession said several council members wanted to revisit the possibility of hiring a school resource officer after a recent public meeting on drug addiction.
“That was a recurring theme: Why don’t we have a better presence?” Hession said. “I think the community is just sensing, ‘Hey, there are some big things we’re up against here.’ ”
During a special school board meeting Nov. 7, Hession and East Cocalico police Chief Terry Arment described what extra training a school resource officer would receive, the officer’s possible schedule and duties. The borough has a police services contract with East Cocalico Township.
Hession outlined how to pay for a school resource officer, who could be shifted from a regular rotation within the East Cocalico department to work with the school district calendar. Hession estimated an annual cost of about $100,000, with 60 percent covered by a grant during year one.
Hession said the borough would also be amenable to splitting costs long-term, a model already used in nearby communities like Lititz and the Warwick School District.
At one point, Hession said, police responded to a high of 59 calls on school district property during a single school year. That number has fallen to to about 30 more recently.
Musser said the district only had 12 reportable incidents during the school day during 2015-16 school year. Those would include assaults or drug episodes. Even with the addition of a school resource officer, after-hours problems would need to be handled by another officer.
In an interview, Denver Mayor Rodney Redcay said the district was handling security well, addressing bullying and mentoring students.
He added, “I believe parents would feel safer knowing that there’s an officer in the building. There is so much more a (school resource officer) can do besides just police.”
School officials bristle at idea
But school board member Randall Renninger equated a resource officer with a security guard.
According to meeting minutes, one district official said being greeted by someone with a gun would change how people feel when they enter a Cocalico building. Another questioned what the officer would do at the district’s three elementary schools.
Though the board said it would review information, Redcay no longer thinks hiring a full-time officer is viable.
“After our meeting with the school district and understanding their views, I don’t see how it would be welcomed by the schools,” he said.
The issue could resurface during a Jan. 24 regional leaders meeting on drugs that will be held at Cocalico High School at 7 p.m.