APD officer assigned to city schools

Ashland will have a police officer specifically assigned to city schools for the next two school years.

The city government is paying for a school resource officer to spend time at Ashland High School, Ashland Middle School and local elementary schools.

Ashland has been without a school resource officer since the 2003-04 school year.

This week, the Ashland City Council approved an agreement between the Ashland Police Department and Ashland School District for the city to provide a police officer.

Police Officer Lisa Evans was among three officers who applied for the position in the schools.

She was selected after going through an interview process with police and school officials, said police Chief Terry Holderness.

Evans likes working with youths and already has experience monitoring school dances, football games and other special events, he said.

Evans will begin work in the schools at the end of this month or in early October. A newly hired Ashland police officer is finishing police academy training and will take over Evans' patrol duties once he is done, freeing her to go to the schools, Holderness said.

Police officer salaries and benefits average $102,000, he said.

As a new hire, the new officer will make less than that, Holderness said.

Because of school holidays and breaks, including summer, Holderness said, Evans will spend about 60 percent of her year at schools and will work on patrol the rest of the time.

In the past, some residents have opposed having a police officer assigned to schools, calling it an inefficient use of resources.

Holderness said providing security is not the main purpose of having an officer in Ashland schools, which experience little violence.

While the officer is available to help with safety and in the event that a shooter comes to a school, her main purpose will be to improve relations between police and youths and to help students avoid getting in trouble, Holderness said.

"This will improve our relations with teenagers. We're in charge of enforcing the boundaries that they test as teenagers," he said.

Evans will also deal with traffic issues before and after school, counsel students who are having problems, teach sexual assault prevention and civic rights and duties, and handle a range of other tasks, Holderness said.

Each school will designate a liaison with the school resource officer so the program can be constantly evaluated. Evans' activities will be tailored to meet the needs and issues of each school, he said.

Evans will spend about two-thirds of her school time at the high school and the remaining time at the middle school and elementary schools, Holderness said.

City Councilor Greg Lemhouse, a former police officer, said school resource officers can gather valuable information about crimes in the area.

Councilors agreed to provide a school resource officer for two years, rather than four years as had been originally proposed.

"We don't know that funding is going to be available beyond two years," Councilor Rich Rosenthal said.

"If more funding is available, great," he added. "Then we can renew the contract."

The city began budgeting in two-year increments this year, ending its practice of adopting new budgets annually.

Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com.

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