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Archive for Friday, August 17, 2012

Fewer police in city’s schools, more on patrol

August 17, 2012

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School resource officer Mike Cobb, right, watches over the cafeteria Friday at Lawrence High School. This year, the Lawrence Police Department has reduced its number of school resource officers from six to four to increase the number of patrol officers.

School resource officer Mike Cobb, right, watches over the cafeteria Friday at Lawrence High School. This year, the Lawrence Police Department has reduced its number of school resource officers from six to four to increase the number of patrol officers.

Lawrence Police Chief Tarik Khatib says the department in recent years has been trying to juggle too many things.

He’s working on a plan to get back more to the basics as he moves some officers with specialty assignments back to patrolling the streets. That includes two school resource officers and three traffic unit officers.

“Having a well-trained, well-equipped and well-resourced patrol response is critical for the health and safety of the community because no matter what’s occurring at any given moment, patrol is the first to respond to it,” said Khatib, who has said since he took over as chief in February 2011 that the department needs more officers.

City leaders agreed to add four officer positions this year and three more as part of the 2013 budget. By the end of the year Khatib also plans to shift officers from other areas of the department back into patrol assignments.

The department has reduced its school resource officers from six to four, and in December Khatib plans to fold the department’s traffic unit, which has three positions, back into patrol as well.

He wants to see how the plan works.

“We’re going to do the best we possibly can to make patrol, that initial response and that core service that everybody interacts with, the best possible given what we have,” he said.

School, traffic officer changes

As classes started this week, two police officers now are assigned to each of the city’s two public high schools as school resource officers. Those same four officers also have an additional assignment to cover one middle school each. Before, the department assigned one resource officer to each high school and middle school as part of the city-funded program.

Khatib did not replace two officers whose school assignments recently ended, and they have returned to patrol.

“It’s fair to say that we’re disappointed that we reduced the number of school resource officers. We find them to be very valuable in our schools,” said Lawrence Superintendent Rick Doll, who acknowledged police communicated with the district about the change. “But I also understand the economic realities of trying to staff an entire city’s police department.”

Doll said part of the change, having two officers in each high school, could be positive. The high schools grew by several hundred students when the district recently added ninth-graders to the buildings. School resource officers take police reports for incidents in the schools, but they also teach classes and offer students an opportunity to have positive interactions with officers.

The superintendent said the program has been successful. Lawrence recently received the school district of the year award from the Kansas Juvenile Officers Association for its collaboration with the department, and Officer Myrone Grady received the 2011 Kansas School Resource Officer of the Year award for his work at South Middle School. Grady will still cover South, and his office will now be at Lawrence High School.

The core functions of the department’s traffic unit also will be covered because the three officers can still be deployed to help investigate and map serious accidents.

Patrol officers will take on other functions, such as running radar guns, and the department will continue special saturation patrols when state funds are available for overtime, Khatib said.

Experiment

The restructuring could allow for assignments when calls are busiest. For instance, Khatib said the department could more easily deploy extra officers early on Saturdays and Sundays to try to stop drunken drivers or other crimes. Or a team of officers could focus on specific problems, such as a recent string of aggravated burglaries.

“It may allow us to be more proactive,” Khatib said.

The department in 1999 had 80 positions assigned to patrol, and by 2011 that had reduced by one, mainly because any staffing additions came in other areas, including detectives, school resource officers, neighborhood resource officers, traffic and other support positions.

“All of our staff shortages have been historically manifested at the patrol level,” Khatib said. “We have kept filling special assignment slots at the expense of patrol operations.”

With increases the last two city budgets and Khatib’s reorganization plan, the department by December would be at 91 patrol positions. Obviously, vacancies exist in some positions because of retirements, medical leave and other reasons.

In his advocacy for more resources, he has said the ideal situation would be 96 patrol positions. Khatib has also asked for more resources for the specialized positions, and he’s hopeful for the future.

“We have to get back to the basics of doing the basic patrol function as best as possible,” Khatib said, “and then build upon that solid base.”

Comments

Steven Gaudreau 2 years, 2 months ago

"deploy extra officers early on Saturdays and Sundays to try to stop drunken drivers or other crimes" My opinion is that this is the police chief trying to bully the city to increase his staff. Making our schools less safe so the LPD can do more more bar checks is a scare tactic, unethical and wrong. The chief is basically saying that he is willing to put a child's safety at risk if he does not get his way. Fire his a**! LPD spends most evenings walking through bars looking for minors drinking. By LPD's own stats, over 300 bar checks are recorded a year by the current under manned staff. So the chief wants to make our already drug filled schools less safe so he can catch more 20 year olds drinking in bars??? Is this really what's best for community?
I would rather see our children kept safe in school and cut the bar checks in half and put those officers on the street for DUI's. What I believe will happen with the extra staff is bar checks will go to 400 and DUI stops will not increase is proportion to the officers added.
If we have a terrible incident at a middle school, Khatib should be held criminally responsible.

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kuguardgrl13 2 years, 2 months ago

You're worried at school security because there's not a police officer present all the time? I can remember the days not too long ago when we didn't have an SRO at the middle school level (this also wasn't in Lawrence). There was one SRO (police liaison, we called them) for the entire high school of 3500 students. Most incidents were taken care of by the team of 15 security staff and the hundreds of cameras around the building. Lawrence is not Kansas City or Detroit. On a normal day, the kids can go to and from school without worry. I'm more worried that the officers at LHS and Free State won't be full time anymore. As for Saturdays and Sundays, why won't LPD work with KU Public Safety? The KU police already patrol campus on weekends.

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Fins 2 years, 2 months ago

"Khatib should be held criminally responsible", really Larry? Seems to me you are part of the problem here. Quit expecting the police to raise your kids for you and take an active role in your own children's lives so the rest of society doesn't have to raise your kids for you. It's your kind of thinking that has made juvenile issues such a mess. Nobody wants to be a parent anymore but they are quick to blame others when their child gets in trouble or goes the wrong direction in life. Maybe you shouldn't spend so much time at your bar hoping the cops don't come in to bust the underage drinkers you let in to increase your revenue and spend more time raising your kids. I don't recall the last time someone got killed or raped because they went to school but I'm fairly certain drunk kids have killed people in car accidents and several drunk and underage college girls have been raped by people they met in bars. Maybe the police will stop your kid from drinking in the bars underage and prevent them from becoming a victim of sexual assault or stop them from driving drunk. Maybe you should try doing the same.

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Deb Engstrom 2 years, 2 months ago

Rather than work to improve the situation you remove yourself and your child. So I assume you have a plan to protect him/her for their entire life rather than teach them to react/respond to situations that they find themselves in. You are very fortunate to be able to pay teachers to educate your child but many are not. Resource officers are a valuable asset to all schools and should be there.

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KISS 2 years, 2 months ago

So then why are you posting in this article if your kid(s) isn't/aren't even in public schools?

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KISS 2 years, 2 months ago

Shocking! Shocking, I say, that Smitty and LarryNaive are the first two to post in here. I did not read their anti-LPD spewing crap, but I'd be willing to bet a large sum of money that Smitty mentions the YH at least 3 times and LN mentions bar checks at least twice. Am I the only one that suspects they sit around on their computers all day, everyday, just waiting for a story about the PD, having their ignorant propaganda ready to go in copy/paste form so they can be the first to post?

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Missingit 2 years, 2 months ago

It looks like Yellow House wrote the story! Great journalism smitty. Can I now here how Quik Trip's ice is so cold to help frame the YH. Perhaps how the Royals losing is some how to help frame YH. Maybe how the president of the US has helped frame the YH. This YH diatribe is horrible. Please stop, it's soooooooo worn out.

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elliottaw 2 years, 2 months ago

I don't think that the school would stop parents from going in to help keep the kids straight, one cop is not going to make much of a difference in a school anyways.

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irvan moore 2 years, 2 months ago

i don't think we need police in schools, i think the schools should throw out students who engage in criminal behavior instead of letting them terrorize other kids

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Deb Engstrom 2 years, 2 months ago

Only a very small percentage are engaging in criminal behavior and those kids are removed. There are lots of kids who just need additional adult support to make good choices.

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Patricia Davis 2 years, 2 months ago

Consequences usually makes a better teacher.

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Lawrenceks 2 years, 2 months ago

Searching the LJWorld I did not find any LPD SRO had been arrested for DUI! So where did that come from Smitty? Same place as all your Yellow House stuff came from? Made up???

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begin60 2 years, 2 months ago

Most likely the presence of officers in the Lawrence Public Schools, especially given the questionable competence and ethics of local law enforcement, just feeds into the unjust school-to-prison pipeline.

Go down to the Douglas County Courthouse and you will be hard put not to conclude that residents are chosen out for legal scapegoating on the basis of illegal and protected characteristics. The local police like everyone else in Lawrence are highly but possibly unconsciously prejudiced and discriminatory.

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Paula Kissinger 2 years, 2 months ago

They are not needed in the schools...they do nothing there. Never have. Need to crank the WRAP program back up...more beneficial.

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Bladerunner 2 years, 1 month ago

Its my understanding the school district promised to fund the salaries of Officers in their schools years ago but has never been able to work it into their budgets.

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