— By BRIAN SMITH
Three additional school resource officers are in the plans if Weatherford police officials get the grant funding city council members allowed them to apply for Tuesday night.
Police Chief Mike Manning said the funds, if approved, should be available in September or October. He said the department applied for the same funds last year and was denied, allowing it to reapply this year.
The funding is being offered through a competitive grant program entitled Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS). The funding goes directly to law enforcement agencies to create and keep jobs to increase community policing capability and prevention efforts. Additional consideration is being given to grant requests designated for school resource officers, according to a staff report.
If the funding is approved, three additional entry-level officers are scheduled to be hired and assigned to the schools to assist with programs already in place and allow for better monitoring of campuses.
The three-year grant would be for $375,000 with the city expected to contribute an additional $241,068 in salary and benefits. In addition, the city would fund salaries and benefits for all three officers during the fourth year of service after the grant monies run out.
The city and Weatherford ISD have worked together for several years to provide SROs for district schools. Three officers work the district campuses with each entity paying half of the salary. The WISD has 7.646 students, or a ratio of 2,549-to-1. With the three new SROs, the ratio would be cut to 1,274-to-1.
A sergeant position was cut during the 2010-11 school year and has not yet been replaced.
A staff report said increasing call loads have stretched the officers into more of a reactive rather an proactive approach to issues which is something that needs to be changed.
An increase in family disturbances on campus with officers reporting a high number of fights, assaults, threats and sexting among students accentuates the need for more officers, according to a staff report.
During the past school year, drunk and unruly parents have become an increasing concern for officers, as well.