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Campus cop’s return hinges on grant

In cases of vandalism, fights or tagging on Oak Harbor High School’s campus, an on-duty, off-campus officer is presently assigned to the call.

However, Lt. John Dyer of the Oak Harbor Police Department hopes a new $266,000 federal grant will allow for a “resource officer” to again be permanently planted on school grounds five days a week.

Dyer recently applied for a COPS (Community Oriented Policing Services) hiring recovery program grant, which will be announced this September. Stimulus money is provided directly to law enforcement agencies to help create and preserve jobs.

Last year, the high school lost its popular resource officer after budget restrictions caused the school district and city to discontinue funding. Each side paid 50 percent of the position.

The CHRP grant would fund a full-time officer 100 percent, in salary and benefits, for three years.

Once the federal funding ends, the school district must agree to retain the officer for an additional year using local funds.

At the April 13 school board meeting, Superintendent Rick Schulte told the school board he was interested in Dyer’s proposal.

“Resource officers get to know the students and make them feel comfortable with law enforcement,” Schulte said. “If a student hears about violence or drugs and reports it to the officer, they can help prevent crime before it occurs.”

According to a 2001 national survey of school resource officers, 90 percent of officers averted between one and 25 violent acts a year.

“In the past, we’ve had numerous reports of fighting,” Dyer said. “The officers were able to contact the students directly before it happened, refer them to counselors at the school or talk to the parents.”

The resource officer can be present at sporting games and events, and is available for classroom instruction. The school’s former resource officer lectured to Drivers’ Ed classes, and civics and social studies courses.

Dyer said the officer becomes the “eyes and ears” of the campus, building relationships with staff, students and parents. If the Oak Harbor Police Department receives the grant this September, they will begin an application process.

About $168,000 in grant money would pay for the officer’s salary, and $98,000 would be given for benefits, including health and life insurance.

“It’s much more efficient to have a resource officer in the school, rather than rely on patrol officers arriving at different times,” Dyer said.

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