BUCKSPORT, Maine — The Bucksport Police Department and RSU 25 have begun a joint effort to bring a school resource officer to the district schools beginning this month.
According to Police Chief Sean Geagan, Officer Ryan Welch, a longtime, part-time officer with the department, has been assigned as the school resource officer. He will work a flexible schedule that will have him in the schools one or two days a week. Although he will be based at Bucksport High School, Welch will work in all of the school buildings in the district.
RSU 25 includes the towns of Bucksport, Orland, Prospect and Verona Island, and has school buildings in Bucksport and Orland.
The school resource officer is part of a wider community policing effort in Bucksport, according to Geagan. It will replace the D.A.R.E. program officer whose position ended last year, and will include some elements of that program.
“The goal here is to provide a safe learning environment for the staff and students and I think having an officer there will serve as a deterrent for some things,” Geagan said Monday. “The officer also will serve as a resource to the staff and students and for the Police Department.”
The school resource officer’s position will do a number of things for the Police Department, according to Geagan, who said he expects to see it pay dividends right off. He said the deterrent factor should reduce the number of civil and criminal complaints at the schools and, in the event of a problem, there will be someone on the scene to respond to incidents on school grounds, which will leave other officers free for regular patrols and investigations.
“And I think it will help students to see police officers as human beings,” Geagan said. “They’ll see another aspect of police work and not just the officers showing up in a cruiser when something goes wrong.”
Geagan noted that the Police Department had 104 calls to the schools last year, including everything from open windows to actual crimes. But both he and Superintendent Jim Boothby said the new program was not a response to any specific incident or problem at the schools.
“The chief has been looking for ways of doing community policing and getting it into the schools,” Boothby said. “This is not a response to any particular incident; it’s a way for us to work with students to help them be successful.”
The officer will have direct contact with students on a regular basis, Boothby said. He will be involved in educational activities in the school curriculum, including safety both in and out of school. The school resource officer also will work on issues such as bicycle safety, school “wake-up call” events such as mock accidents, as well as presentations for students and parents on Internet safety, among others.
“He will be a resource we can tap into to help students develop the assets they need for success,” Boothby said. “And he’ll be there to support us if we need to deal with a situation.”
Funding for the school resource officer program, which will cost an estimated $7,000 a year, will come from both the police department and the RSU. Both will use funding that previously had been dedicated to the D.A.R.E. program and the RSU also will draw on funds from a BARR grant it was awarded earlier this year.
The BARR program, Building Assets — Reducing Risk, is designed to increase student success in the first year of high schools. It provided $400,000 over four years to the district, which, according to Boothby, includes funds for a police liaison officer.
Officer Welch is receiving training and is expected to be in the schools before the end of the month.