Manchester Police Department Chief Mark Yother is considering adding a school resource officer (SRO) to his 2018-2019 budget.
Yother said discussions started last fall after a student brought a gun to school at Westwood Middle School. Yother said he met with Mayor Lonnie Norman and Manchester City Schools Director Lee Wilkerson in November.
Yother made his pitch during a safety meeting Feb. 20. Safety committee members approved a motion to advance the discussion to the finance committee.
The chief said Westwood Middle School would be the officer’s “base” and would provide necessary protection for all three city schools – Westwood Middle, Westwood Elementary and College Street Elementary.
“The school board became interested in having a possible SRO following the gun incident,” Yother said after the committee meeting.
According to a report by the police department following an incident at Westwood Middle School on Sept. 14, 2017 in which a student brought an unloaded gun to school, the student also had a loaded magazine in his backpack. According to the police report, Westwood Middle School Assistant Principal Jonathan Graf obtained the gun from the student and upon further search found a six-round magazine in the student’s backpack. He then notified the police and the student’s parents. Yother confirmed the report concerning the loaded magazine.
“As far as the gun being loaded, it was not when it was retrieved. There was a [magazine], and it was loaded, but it was not in the gun; it was separate,” Yother said at the time of the incident.
According to Yother, salary for an officer is $40,560, and benefits (car, uniform, special training, and other items) would cost an additional $24,000. The city schools and police department will need to come up with a plan to split the cost of the SRO in order to approve the additional officer.
Yother said police officers routinely do walk throughs at city schools – as availability warrants.
Currently, all secondary schools in the Coffee County School System have dedicated SRO officers – including Coffee Middle School, Raider Academy and Central High School. Those officers are provided by the Coffee County Sheriff’s Department.
In other news, the safety committee approved a plan by Fire Chief George Chambers to provide emergency medical responders to certain health-related issues in the city. The plan calls for two certified emergency medical responders (EMRs) or emergency medical technicians (EMTs) to provide services to city residents for issues such as heart attacks, blocked airways, drowning, strokes, etc. Chambers said there are 16 types of issues his firefighters can provide care for and would pass along the list to 911 operators and Coffee County EMTs.
County EMTs will still respond to victims in each case, but Chambers believes the city can get to the scene quicker.
“A total of 13 of our 30 firefighters are certified EMTs or EMRs,” Chambers said. “They have worked hard to pass national exams.
“At this point, we are ready to provide additional services.”
Chambers reported the fire department responded to eight fires in January, 17 emergency medical treatment calls, and 33 service calls. Total calls for the month was 76.
The fire chief estimated the total dollar loss in the fires to be $47,750.