School resource officer in the works

Alexis Barker, NLJ News Editor

School district, city have agreed to funding position



Weston County School District No. 1 will again have a school resource officer after the board of trustees opted to reallocate funding for a juvenile probation officer on the heels of Deb Sweet’s retirement from that position. Both the Newcastle Police Department and Weston County Sheriff’s Office have expressed support putting an SRO in the schools. 


Currently, the juvenile probation officer’s salary is funded by all three entities, a third each coming from the school district, the city of Newcastle and Weston County. 


“We would like to continue our partnership with the city and county and allocate those funds to hire an SRO for the school year,” states a letter from Superintendent Brad LaCroix. “During summer months the school resource officer would work with the city. We would also understand that the SRO would have to leave to help local law enforcement in an emergency.” 


Sheriff Bryan Colvard told the News Letter Journal that he believes both positions —  school resource officer and juvenile probation officer — are critical, and that he thinks the community will be able to work out having both. 


Police Chief Chuck Bowles told the Newcastle City Council on May 15 that no matter what its decision was, he would be putting an officer in the schools during the 2023-24 school year. 


“We spend a lot of time at the high school and middle school,” he said. “We can use that money to supplement the hourly rate for our officer.” 


He noted that the time spent at the schools takes away from the normal patrols of the community and that creating an SRO position would eliminate that issue. 


“Today, we had our officer up there (at the schools) twice for things. If we have an SRO, they can handle things at the school and build rapport with the kids and hopefully avoid some of the silliness we have dealt with lately,” Bowles said. 


Specifics on the incidents being dealt with at the school were not provided, but the News Letter Journal has reported on several incidents at Newcastle High School in recent months, including a gun brought to school, swatting calls referencing a school shooting and an overdose and THC possession. 


“I think this is desperately needed in this community and I would like to add an extra position,” Bowles said. “Right now, we are not fully staffed; we would have to get fully staffed. It would be a current officer. I am hoping by next school year we will be more fully staffed.” 


Councilman Don Steveson suggested that the city look for grants to help fund the SRO. He noted that several years ago the city had used a grant to put an officer in the schools. 


“We can look into that. Down the road, it would be nice to have two,” Bowles said, noting that the officers could go back and forth between the middle school-high school complex and Newcastle Elementary School. 


“The kids need that rapport and connection with law enforcement,” he said. 


Steveson added that having an officer in the schools helps kids see police in a different light, not as people who are only there to reprimand or respond during emergencies. 



Councilwoman Ann McColley and Councilman Tyrel Owens both expressed support for putting an officer in the schools. 


Although Owens said that he thinks the council would be best served if the position were discussed in a police committee meeting where more information, including education for the position and funding avenues, could be deliberated. He also noted that the department was already short staffed. 


“Personally I think that a SRO is important. It is something I would definitely be in favor of, but I think we need more research before we spend the money,” he said. 


Bowles again acknowledged that the department is short staffed but that the SRO would be a good use of resources. 


“From what I have seen the last several months, a lot of resources have went to the school. We have spent weeks up there doing investigations. … It is not going to hurt us. It is going to help. We will have people patrolling instead of sitting there for days at a time,” he said. 


He noted that this could also help prevent or address issues that pour out into the community from the schools. 


Owens moved to help fund the SRO, and the motion was carried unanimously. 


“If we are already spending large amounts of time at the school, this would be a way to nip it in the butt. It is the common sense thing,” Owens said. “We have staff there to respond to those issues. It is a scary world. It would be a peace of mind if someone was there that is trained.” 


Mayor Pam Gualtieri echoed Owens’ comments in throwing her support behind the creation of the position.

News Letter Journal

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