Second student resource officer to start in district

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Second student resource officer to start in district

The Mequon Thiensville School District looks to hire a second student resource officer in February 2020.

The Mequon Thiensville School District looks to hire a second student resource officer in February 2020.

The Mequon Thiensville School District looks to hire a second student resource officer in February 2020.

The Mequon Thiensville School District looks to hire a second student resource officer in February 2020.

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According to the federal definition an SRO (school resource officer) is a career law enforcement officer with sworn authority who is deployed by an employing police department in a community-oriented policing assignment to work in collaboration with one or more schools.

After a 2016 security audit performed by Safe Haven International, and increasing responsibilities for the existing Mequon Thiensville School District (MSTD) student resource officer (SRO), a second SRO will begin working in the community starting in the beginning of February 2020.

Officer Tarie Umhoefer, the current SRO, explains how she works for the entire district, covering all elementary, middle and high schools as well as two private schools and preschools in the community. As an SRO, Officer Umhoefer has many responsibilities among the schools. “I’m the liaison between the police department and the school,” Umhoefer said. “I assist when there are laws that are broken within the school and those investigations.”

Not only does her job require law enforcement, but it also entails prevention, education and building a strong relationship between the school community and the police department. “This consists of presentations and meetings, with our focus being to keep kids on track,” Umhoefer said.

Aside from school duties, Officer Umhoefer also works school dances, sports such as football games and other extracurricular activities. She also deals with Ozaukee County Child Protection Services.

With numerous responsibilities for one officer, the 2016 audit recommended that the district look into hiring a second SRO. The second officer will be based more in the middle and elementary schools, leaving Officer Umhoefer more time at Homestead to work on prevention and education, as well as law enforcement.

Rachel Fellenz, Executive Director Student Services, explains the role of the new SRO. “The second [officer] will primarily be based out of middle school. They will be doing more community based things,” Fellenz said.

As for the cost, officers are employees of the Mequon-Thiensville Police Department, so in the past, there has been no cost to the district. With the addition of a second SRO, however, MTSD will now pay “50% of the cost per SRO of salary and benefits at 68% of a full-time Mequon Police Department contract,” according to the Memorandum of Understanding for School Resource Officer Program.

The City of Thiensville will pay a flat amount each year while the City of Mequon will cover the remaining costs of salary and benefits. This adds up to approximately $75,000 for MTSD.

Since the officer will not be working year round, as there is summer, winter and spring break as well as various days off, the district will pay a portion of the salary for the time the officer puts in at the school. “We are paying a portion of the days of the school year. Typically students are in session for 177 to 180 days a year, so we are paying for that portion,” Fellenz said.

With finances and responsibilities sorted, students, staff and parents should expect to see a second SRO sometime around early February. Once shadowing and training is complete, he or she will start their position in the district.