School resource officer will be hired with department grant funds

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 16, 2002

The city of Austin has been awarded a $125,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice.

The money comes from the DOJ's Community Oriented Policing Services program.

It will be used to hire a school resource officer, a sworn law enforcement officer, who will be permanently assigned to an area school or the Austin Public Schools System.

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U.S. Senator Mark Dayton and 1st District Congressman Gil Gutknecht, both made the announcement and said — in separate press releases —

the in-schools program money must be used for the salary and benefits of each new officer hired over a 3-year period.

The specific duties of each SRO are left up to

the unique needs of the schools and communities they serve. Their primary role is to safeguard students by providing a law enforcement

presence on campuses.

Many SROs also teach crime prevention and substance abuse classes, serve as coaches and monitor and counsel troubled students.

Austin Police Chief Paul Philipp is awaiting official confirmation of the awarding of the grant, but his early reaction is pleasure.

"It's a combination of a n idea the city and the Austin Public Schools had," said Philipp. "We already have one officer — we call him a school liaison officer — in place at Austin High School, Travis Heichley. We hope to place the next officer in Ellis Middle School and also the local elementary schools."

The city and school district may have to pick up any remaining costs of the new officer after the 3-year period ends. The commitment to hire an SRO is four years.

The city and school district made a joint application for the funding a year ago, but were denied. The second time around proved successful for the applicants.

"The COPS program by putting more officers on the beat has successfully reduced crime in communities in Minnesota and across the country," Dayton said. "This funding will help the city of Austin build a bridge between law enforcement and area students."

The politicians said the DOJ's COPS program has provided over $550 million to fund and train more than 6000 SROs nationwide.

The Austin grant is one of 21 being awarded to communities throughout Minnesota totaling nearly $3 million.

Lee Bonorden can be contacted at 434-2232 or by e-mail at