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Whitman, Longfellow to have dedicated police officers

City approves cost-share for new employee Tuesday

Dec. 21, 2011

Each of Wauwatosa's middle schools will have its own school resource officer walking the hallways early next year, following a unanimous decision by the city's Common Council to contribute funding for a fourth officer.

A school resource officer costs more than $100,000 per year. That cost shared, with the Wauwatosa School District picking up 75 percent, or $75,652, and the city paying out 25 percent, or $25,217. The School Board approved its share last week, having received the request for a fourth officer after the city had completed its 2012 budgeting.

Police Capt. Dale Weiss said he is confident the city's 25 percent, or $25,217, can be found within its existing budget for 2012.

The move allows a school resource officer at each high school and at each middle school. Currently, one officer splits time at both middle schools.

Only officers who have been with the department at least two years will be able to apply for the new post, which the department expects to fill in January.

The council's decision came without any discussion, because the issue was discussed by the Budget and Finance Committee on Dec. 13.

The city does benefit from the officers' placements in schools and during the summer months those officers return to patroling the rest of the city, Weiss said.

For many years there was concern about gang violence infiltrating the schools. But that hasn't been the case because of the strong police presence within the schools, Chief Barry Weber said.

Still, teens are faced with issues of drugs, weapons and social media that could easily result in dangerous outcomes, he added.

The Police Department tries to foster a safe and familiar learning environment, he said. That means not changing officers at a school too often - the SRO needs to be consistent so as to build a rapport with the students.

"If one child feels they are being bullied or unsafe, then they are a victim," the chief said.

Alderman Peter Donegan said the city should probably defer to school officials about the need for policing in their buildings. However, he wanted some convincing that the city's pay contribution would be well-spent. Moving an officer to a middle school will necessitate hiring another officer to fill the patrol position.

"I'm adverse to building the department unless it's absolutely necessary," he said.

Alderman Dennis McBride supported adding the school resource officer position, saying that it creates a culture of respecting authority and following the rules.

The foreign-exchange student he is hosting told him about the school resource officer talking to her high school class about the 4th Amendment, showing that police can also bring educational value to the job.

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