Basalt to put cop on school beat
Basalt has accepted a $125,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice which will allow the placement of a special police officer in the town’s public schools later this year.
The Basalt Town Council accepted the grant for a school resource officer last week. That requires the town to take on the obligation of funding the position after the grant expires in three years.
School district officials have said they will not help fund the position, although they support the program. Several council members expressed concerns about long-term funding obligations, but decided they were outweighed by the advantages of getting the program started.
“The benefits to the community, the benefits to the kids, the benefits to education should be the first things we talk about,” said Councilman Leroy Duroux. “The money is the last thing we should be talking about, in my opinion.”
Duroux said he has spent five years as an elected official trying to create better communication between town government and Basalt youths. Nothing has worked, but he sees potential through the school resource officer program.
“If that’s the one benefit that comes out of it, it’s worth it,” he said.
Basalt Police Chief Jim Stryker and the co-chair of an ad hoc group called Basalt for a Safe Education, or BASE, both said they felt the town would collect returns for the financial investment in the program.
Terri Newland of BASE said the program has received “nothing but good reviews” in the public schools of Aspen and Glenwood Springs. A school resource officer provides guidance and an extra set of eyes in case of potential trouble, she said.
“In light of recent incidents both locally and nationwide of violence in public schools, we feel this investment of public funds is warranted and necessary to ensure a safe educational environment for our children,” said a letter from BASE to the Town Council.
Stryker said an officer will be hired with the help of the grant. That officer will receive training through the Department of Justice as well as Basalt Police Department. The officer could be in place by the start of next school year.
Like Newland, Stryker said it will help build a better bond between kids and cops.
“It would allow us to have closer contact than we do now in the schools with kids and parents,” he said.
Councilman Steve Solomon suggested the board accept the grant to ensure the program gets created, then form a committee to discuss its parameters. That committee will be created this school year to design a program for next year.
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