King County Executive Gary Locke talks about the successes of the School Resource Officer Program.
by Jeff Switzer
Building on the successes of the Northshore, Lake Washington, and Kent School Districts, King County Executive Gary Locke announced recently the expansion of the School Resource Officer Program.
The expansion reflects the success of Northshore's first year under the contract, where specially-trained officers are hand-picked by the school district and act as a part-time on-site security.
Officers train teachers and staff in violence and drug intervention and interact with the students, eating lunch with them, playing basketball, and establishing a rapport with them.
Police say the program is in part responsible for roughly a 75 percent drop in Woodinville High School calls, and in downtown Woodinville, a 50 percent drop in the number of drinking, vandalism, and cruising incidents involving Woodinville High students.
"It's too soon to claim victory," said Locke, "but the early results are encouraging. Our children cannot focus on their studies if they're worried that guns, drugs, or a clenched fist await them at school. When we involve students in their own safety, we create a secure place for our children to learn."
Woodinville High and Leota Junior High, both within the City of Woodinville, have resource officers drawn from the city's contract with King County. Officer Tiffany Atwood is in her third year as a resource officer and her second as a Woodinville and Leota officer.
"The program has had an overwhelming effect not only at the school, but out in the field," Atwood said. "I'm excited for this school year to start."
Each of the testimonials offered by officers in the field said students no longer ran away when they approached, and instead go towards officers. School staff cited how having an officer present with parents and troubled teens helps create better lines of communication within families.
"The problems of society walk into our schools every day, and we still need to teach reading, writing, arithmetic, and a lot more," said Dr. Karen Forys, superintendent of Northshore schools, who says the program has made the atmosphere at schools safer. "If we lose the safety of the schools, we might as well fold up our tents and move away because we can't do our jobs."