State grant program funds 116 new school resource officers

Another 116 police officers will soon be working in Indiana schools—in districts like Mishawaka, Plymouth, and Oregon Davis.

It’s part of a $9 million grant program aimed at improving school safety.

“I was elected one year ago today to serve in this job and it was just a few short weeks after that we all heard the news of Newtown, Connecticut and now, just as a public official, but as a dad, it was heartbreaking to me,” said Governor Mike Pence, (R) Indiana.

Sandy Hook inspired Indiana’s Secured School Safety Grant Program.

The Knox Community School District received the largest grant award possible--$50,000. Governor Pence was on hand to make the check presentation.

“So what we want to do is increase the, and upgrade the door security in all the buildings of the corporation and also upgrade and integrate the camera systems,” said Knox Community Schools Superintendent A.J. Gappa.

The camera system would be integrated to the point where police could have remote access to the surveillance, if need be: Officers wouldn’t have to be in the building to see what was going on, which could be convenient since Knox is one of the Indiana school districts that does not have a dedicated school resource officer.

“Well, the original bill that I was advocating at the beginning of the session would have just funded school resource officers,” said Attorney General Greg Zoeller, (R) Indiana.

Zoeller today awarded a $25,000 grant to the Mishawaka schools. It will be used to expand a school resource officer program that is already in place in the middle and high schools.

“This will enable us to do a new level of school resource being in the elementary schools so we look very forward to that,” said Mishawaka Police Chief Kenneth Witkowski.

Zoeller expressed some disappointment that only half the districts (116 of 241) that received a grant planned to use the cash to hire cops. “Bullet proof glass is a good investment and they're going to need that but in the long term I’m saying that school resource officers buy a new relationship with students that you can't buy with bullet proof glass.”

At the Knox Community School Corporation, some consideration was given to the possibility of adding a resource officer.

“We wanted to get the best bang for the buck I guess you could say part of the decision making was the fact that we knew that this may run out in two years,” said A.J. Gappa. “We don’t know for sure if it’s going to continue.”

The Secured School Safety Grant Program includes $10 million in funding for this year, and $10 million more for next year. Beyond that, nothing is guaranteed.

If you hire a school resource officer you’ll have a new employee that has to be paid every year, where if you put in a bullet proof glass it’s a one-time purchase you don’t have to trust that Indianapolis will find funding,” said Zoeller.

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