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Police department to seek COPS funding


Grant would fund second school resource officer at middle schools

The Woodburn City Council approved a request to seek Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) funding for a new school resource officer last week.

The council’s decision allows the Woodburn Police Department to move forward with its application for the staggered, three-year grant through the U.S. Department of Justice’s COPS Office.

COPS provides funding to local governments to assist in the hiring of additional police officers. Under their current iteration, the grants require a 25-percent local match and cap funding at $125,000 over the three-year period. The program also requires that successful applicants retain the position for at least 12 months following the conclusion of the grant funding.

Woodburn has been successful in securing COPS funding in the past, including grants that funded three officers in the ’90s, and a later one that led to the hiring of its first school resource officer. All four positions were eventually absorbed into the department’s budget and are maintained to this day.

During a presentation before the council May 12, Police Chief Scott Russell said that the city’s current school resource officer, Rick Puente, has been so successful that the Woodburn School District has asked for a second.

“For quite a few years, the Woodburn School District — their staff and crew and even line cooks — have expressed to us a desire to have some support at the middle school level,” he said.

Russell admitted that his officers have been less visible at French Prairie and Valor in recent years due to the waning of the D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program.

“At the high school, it’s been a challenge trying to play catch-up with kids that are probably behind the curve, more gang-involved than they might have been if we had some access to them in middle school,” he said.

Russell said COPS gives some precedence to grants for school resource officers over grants for general patrol officers. If successful, the grant would also allow Woodburn to move closer to its goal of 1.5 officers per 1,000 residents (the ratio is currently closer to 1.23 per 1,000).

He said school resource officers have a wide variety of responsibilities. The officer serves as part of the district’s management team, participating in emergency planning and preparations and conducting threat assessments.

The officer also acts as a liaison between the schools and the police department, and can help streamline when the two need to work together since he or she is familiar with both organizations’ policies and procedures.

“I can remember times where you would send an officer to a school on a criminal case and they would be there all day and still not have that case resolved,” Russell said. “With SROs, they’re there on the ground all the time. I think that’s the biggest benefit to both the city and the school district: They can navigate those challenging connections between education and law enforcement.”

Over the course of the three-year grant, COPS would provide $125,000 toward the position’s salary in benefits, while the city would be responsible for approximately $137,000. In addition, the city would have to fund the job for at least a fourth year, at a cost of around $94,000.

The council’s decision authorizes only the application for the grant. If the application is successful, the matter would be brought before councilors again to determine whether to accept the proposal.

In other business, the council:

— Awarded a contract bid for street resurfacing to Salem Road & Driveway in the amount of approximately $480,000. The project includes work on sections of Grant, Lincoln, Leasure and Ogle streets, Country Club Court, Settlemier Avenue, Mayana Drive and Princeton Road.

— Approved the execution of police records management systems and separate mobile data-sharing agreements between the city of Woodburn and the cities of Silverton, Hubbard and Mount Angel.

— Renewed its funding agreement with the Boys & Girls Club of Salem, Marion and Polk Counties for the operation of the Settlemier Park Teen Center.

— Approved a supplemental budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year.