Sheriff forms school security unit
SNOHOMISH COUNTY - The Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office is forming a unit of deputies focused on school security.
The eight deputies will mentor kids, help districts update their emergency response plans and investigate crimes at schools. The deputies will be armed, just like other officers working in schools.
“We want kids to feel safe in school,” Sheriff John Lovick said last week. “The only thing we want kids to be focusing on are their reading and their math.”
The unit will not be replacing school resource officers currently working in schools.
“As far we know, the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office School Services Unit approach to school safety is the first of its kind in the state of Washington, possibly even the nation,” Lovick said. “It builds on establishing and maintaining relationships between law enforcement and school districts, school leadership, teachers, staff, students and their families.”
The unit’s deputies will cover more than 100 public and private schools in unincorporated Snohomish County.
Lovick formed the unit in response to the December mass school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown.
Students at Mill Creek’s Woodside Elementary said this will make a difference.
“The big difference is I don’t feel safe hearing things like what happened in Connecticut,” fifth-grader Bella Hardy said. “But with Sheriff Lovick here I feel more safe.”
Five of the new unit’s deputies were pulled from other assignments within the sheriff’s office. The sheriff’s office is funding the unit within its budget, but is asking the county for money.
The sheriff’s office will ask state lawmakers for $1.1 million for more deputies to expand the program, Lovick said.
The unit will not replace school security at schools in cities that have sheriff’s office contracted police departments, such as the city of Snohomish.
There are eight Everett School District schools in unincorporated Snohomish County the unit’s beat will cover: Gateway Middle School and Penny Creek, Silver Firs, Cedarwood, Woodside, Jefferson and Forest View elementary schools.
The other schools in the district have police officers on campus from the Everett and Mill Creek police departments. The district also has eight non-uniformed campus security officers inside its schools.
School staff takes extra measures to keep students safe, Woodside Principal Betty Cobbs said.
“We make every effort to know who is on our campus,” Cobbs said. She said outside doors are locked, visitors are directed to the main office to sign in and provide identification, for example.
“We do everything within our power to make this a safe environment,” Cobbs said.
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