Having police officers whose "beats" are school hallways is an excellent idea. Unfortunately, local government budget crunches during the past few years have reduced the number of such "resource officers."
Since resource officers began to be placed in Northern Panhandle and East Ohio schools several years ago, we have heard few concerns about them, the primary one being cost. Few school districts can afford to fund the officers on their own. Most small local police and sheriff's departments must make street and road patrols their top priority. And some municipal and county governments that once helped fund the programs have had to reduce spending.
Barnesville village council members on Monday discussed helping their local school district resume use of a resource officer. Barnesville school Superintendent Randy Lucas, village Police Chief Dave Norris and members of council's safety committee agree that would be a desirable initiative.
Resource officers make schools safer in general and can cut down on bullying, a major concern. They also can serve as law enforcement eyes and ears that reduce crime in communities around schools. Finally, they perform the critical task of making young people comfortable with law enforcement, viewing officers as protectors, not enemies.
Our experience is many resource officers become members of school communities and are valuable allies in improving the educational environment in classrooms. Most teachers and principals, not to mention students, love to have them around.
County funding once helped with the cost of a resource officer in Barnesville schools, but the program - and much other county spending - had to be cut. It has been suggested a new resource officer could be hired if Barnesville schools paid about two-thirds of the cost, with the village providing the remainder (about $15,000).
If at all possible, village officials should agree to the partnership.