Justice Department grant to help fund a second officer for schools | AspenTimes.com

Justice Department grant to help fund a second officer for schools

Jennifer Davoren
Aspen Times Staff Writer

City funds – coupled with a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice – will help local police subsidize a second resource officer for Aspen schools through 2006.

The Aspen Police Department was recently awarded a $125,000 grant from the Justice Department to supplement the resource officer program, which allows the department to maintain a presence on the campus. The grant was offered with two conditions: that the city provide matching funding over the next three years and provide funding for an additional fourth year of the program, Police Chief Loren Ryerson told the Aspen City Council Monday.

Council approved the matching funds, which will require a $66,231 commitment from the city over the next four years.

The school district will likely provide “significant levels of funding” to support the grant over the four years, as well, Ryerson said.

Officer Ian MacAyeal will likely be the new resource officer during the 2003-04 school year, Ryerson said. He’ll share duties with Brad Onsgard, the current resource officer on the district campus.

“He’s an Aspen High graduate, who spent many of his youthful years here,” he said.

However, the second school position will rotate each year, allowing four officers a chance to make use of the new grant.

“We’ll probably put a different person out there every year to kind of maximize the opportunities for kids to get to know the officers,” Ryerson said. “They get to know us, and vice versa, in a nonconfrontational way.”

Both resource officers will be ready for duty on Aug. 25, the first day of classes for the high school and middle school.

“I’m sure that they’ll start working shortly before that to help get ready for the school year. Like other teachers, they’ll have to prepare their lesson plans,” Ryerson said.

With this program, Aspen police hope to establish a resource officer in both the middle and high schools. Both officers will also have limited interaction at Aspen Elementary, participating in social programs like Character Counts and Outdoor Education.

Resource officers supervise a variety of classes and programs for the school district, including drug and alcohol education, a “street law” applications class and a students at risk program. They’re also tapped for advice on school security procedures, from safety programs at AHS to crossing-guard duties.

Ryerson stressed that school resource officers are used for instructional and public relations purposes, not undercover work.

“We’re not doing criminal investigations. Our role is mostly to support kids in making the right decisions in the first place,” the chief said. “We’re not there to catch them doing anything wrong or going undercover – we’re going to be in uniforms.”

School district investigations are usually handled by the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office because the campus falls within its jurisdiction, Ryerson said. However, both Onsgard and MacAyeal can be paged during a school-related crisis.

“They would still be able to be fully utilized in case of emergencies,” Ryerson said.

[Jennifer Davoren’s e-mail address is jenniferd@aspentimes.com]

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