Carson City officials discuss school resource officers

Carson City School Resource Officers Dean Williams and Liz Lopez serve breakfast to grade schoolers in this 2018 "Breakfast with a Hero" file photo.

Carson City School Resource Officers Dean Williams and Liz Lopez serve breakfast to grade schoolers in this 2018 "Breakfast with a Hero" file photo.

The Carson City Board of Supervisors and School District’s Board of Trustees weighed the fiscal costs against the longterm tangible impacts of the School Resource Officers program in the city’s schools at their joint meeting Thursday.

The SRO program that has been grant funded and helped to prevent incidents on Carson City’s campuses in recent years has been supported by the city and school district at a cost of $430,438. The agreement splits the personnel costs for three officers between the Board of Supervisors and the CCSD. In October, two more officers were staffed thanks to a grant that will expire in June 2021, according to the school district. The original three positions will remain, but no immediate action will be taken on the other two for now.

The cost of the SRO program split between the two entities, estimated at $430,438, divided evenly between the city and school district is $215,219 for fiscal year 2021. The city would cover its portion from the general fund. Sheriff’s vehicles and equipment are covered in the CCSO budget for 2021, and the city and school district would collaborate to supply computers for the officers.

Carson City Sheriff’s Sgt. Earl Mayes and Deputies Jarrod Adams, Daniel Henneberger, Liz Lopez and Dean Williams have been serving as the SROs, supporting administrative staff and teachers in difficult incidents at schools, providing interventions with school counselors where needed, encouraging positive behavior and attending community events such as “Holiday with a Hero.”

While Sheriff Ken Furlong and district risk manager Ann Cyr could point to anecdotal successes with the program at Thursday’s joint meeting, Ward 2 supervisor Brad Bonkowski said it would require more data to determine the program’s effectiveness.

“We don’t live in your world,” he said. “We don’t see the relationships. … I don’t know the law. There’s got to be some general information that would help us create a baseline so that we can see the effectiveness of the program, directly or indirectly.”

In January, school resource officers responded to 313 incidents in schools and 225 in December.

The Carson City Sheriff’s Office tracks formal and informal referrals for juvenile incidents and arrests. At 33, January’s informal referrals saw a slight increase, Furlong told the Appeal Monday. Formal referrals nearly doubled in the same month, but overall, both saw a 10 percent decrease from December.

“It has been subsiding,” he said.

Carson City had already experienced a spike in the number of incidents being reported. But Furlong noted, in October, the district and supervisors did approve the agreement to add two more SROs, which might explain the increase in incidents.

“One could make the argument that you put more officers in the school, you’re going to get more responses,” Furlong told the Appeal Monday. “We were challenged with lot of incidents especially at the high school, and those incidents seem to be subsiding since then. We’ve gotten control over them.”

On Thursday, Ward 1 Supervisor Stacey Giomi urged the sheriff’s office to provide positive data as well as numbers on service calls for incidents.

“I think we’re missing the boat if you’re only reporting the bad stuff,” Giomi said. “I know it’s a challenge to find a creative way to measure that, but good news is good to report on as well.”

School board President Mike Walker said the resources the SROs are providing and using to change student behaviors has been useful in ensuring school safety.

“As a school administrator, the reality is there are incidents we weren’t trained to deal with,” Walker said. “But by pulling in some resources officers who can do things informally and support parents and change behaviors before law enforcement gets involved, that is huge.”

Mayes and Furlong, speaking to both boards Thursday, said often there are options other than arresting a child if there are severe behavioral problems while on campus. Furlong said the goal is “to keep the educational environment educational” and to provide interventions at a family’s home as much as possible rather than on a school site.

“If parents have a weapon, does that child have access to the weapon is the most important (question),” Furlong told the Appeal Monday. “To me, that’s where we can do the prevention.”

On Monday, Furlong expanded on his comments to the board and told the Appeal he hoped to see the district pursue additional grant funding to support the program.

“I think if school resource officers is truly a community priority, then it should be community funded,” he said.


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