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Nov
29
2022
Village Council

Village Council approves student resource officer for ESC

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The Greene County Educational Service Center will now pay the Village to house a member of the Yellow Springs Police Department, who will serve as a student resource officer at the county’s Learning Center facility, next door to the Yellow Springs High School and McKinney Middle School campus.

Village Council determined the placement of the officer in a 3–2 vote at their Monday, Sept. 19, meeting, just two weeks after voting down a similar piece of legislation at their Sept. 6 meeting.

After the failure of the Sept. 6 measure, Village Manager Josué Salmerón said he contacted Terri Streiter, the superintendent of the Educational Service Center, or ESC, asking her if she was still interested in pursuing a relationship with the Village’s police department.

In a letter to Council, Streiter said the ESC “desired” a school resource officer for several reasons, including:
• to be proactive in terms of school safety
• to have a resource readily available if an active shooter situation arises
• to demonstrate to students and staff that “police officers are supportive in their roles and a resource to them.”

Also in the letter, Streiter commented on the positive relationship between the YSPD and the ESC, stating officers built a “therapeutic rapport” with students.

Police Chief Paige Burge spoke about the merits of the program.

“Safety is our biggest focus, with relationship building being the second biggest focus,” Burge said.

In response to a question from the News, Burge said the YSPD responded to 107 calls for service at the school last year. That number includes routine calls, 24 of which required investigation; police found that crimes had been committed in five of the 24 investigations. Burge said that two of the five criminal offenses were resolved using parents or counselors. Three of the five criminal offenses were referred to the court system.

Council members Gavin DeVore Leonard and Carmen Brown questioned the need for the program, asking Burge to explain what made Yellow Springs officers more equipped to handle the social-emotional needs of students.

“It seems that a police officer who was well-versed in trauma-informed care with a service weapon would know they could be triggering for a student who had trauma,” Brown said.

DeVore Leonard also said he was concerned about putting more guns in schools, given that there is no data that having armed officers decreases school shootings.

“I think we can change the balance and decrease the risk of what happens with more weaponization,” DeVore Leonard said.

Burge said that she understood the concerns Brown and DeVore Leonard expressed, but she believed her officers would benefit students.

“What makes my officers inherently better? Nothing,” Burge said. “I take pride in the fact that I have officers that are engaging and build relationships. It will always be a work in progress.”

Burge said that the officer placed at the school, Officer Kinkade, had training in trauma-informed care and that she often saw him engaging with students in a positive way.

Salmerón added Kinkade would “dress down” his uniform, although he would still carry a gun.

Brown said she was concerned about the trajectory the Village would follow should an officer be placed at the ESC.

“What happens when parents decide we need an SRO at the elementary? The high school? Middle school?” Brown asked.

Council member Kevin Stokes said he was in favor of an agreement between the Village and the ESC.

“I am pro-Yellow Springs Police,” Stokes said. “I would submit that the best care we could give to those students is to have some control over who is there. If we choose not to do this, someone else will.”

Council member Marianne MacQueen, who voted “no” on the Sept. 6 measure, said she was “conflicted” and shared Brown and DeVore Leonard’s concerns about placing an officer in a school.

“If I had it my way, our police officers would not carry guns,” MacQueen said. “But I don’t have my way on this.”

She said that some of her concerns were allayed after a conversation she had with Chief Burge, who told her that the placement would not necessitate creating an additional position within the police department

“I learned some things that I hadn’t understood,” MacQueen said. “This position will not increase the number of hours of officers working for us.”

In addition to not increasing the number of officers the police department employs, the ESC will pay the Village $4,343.09 quarterly for the salary of the officer and $1,500 per year for a police vehicle for the duration of the 3-year contract between the Village and the ESC.

During the public hearing, Matt Raska said the Village does not have to go after all money offered to the Village, and that he disagreed with placing an officer at the ESC. Prior to the vote, DeVore Leonard said complex issues such as policing should be more thoroughly discussed, though he appreciated the additional information Burge and Streiter gave Council members.

Council President Brian Housh echoed MacQueen’s sentiments before calling the vote.

“If it’s not the YSPD, it’s someone else,” Housh said. “I trust that Terry [Streiter] knows her students. I trust our community outreach specialist. I trust our chief and the work [YSPD] is doing.”

The final vote was 3–2, with Brown and DeVore Leonard voting “no.”

Matt Raska is the husband of Jessica Thomas.

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