Armed law enforcement officers will spend about two hours each day in area elementary, middle and other school buildings as part of the Douglas County School District’s new school security program.
The $674,000 marshal program, which launches in August with the start of the academic year, was created in response to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in December.
The district budgeted $600,000 for the program’s first year. Seven charter schools that opted into the program are paying a total of $74,000. That $674,000 reimburses the sheriff’s office and Castle Rock, Parker and Lone Tree police departments for their officers’ time.
DCSD will pay the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office $361,000, Castle Rock $160,000, Parker $123,000 and Lone Tree police $30,000.
The amounts are based on the number of schools in each jurisdiction. Lone Tree, for instance, has the fewest buildings to patrol, with just two elementary schools and an early childhood education center.
While the original plan called for plainclothes officers, they’ll instead wear what officers describe as a “soft uniform” — including a shirt with a department insignia on the front and “police” or “sheriff” printed on the back — so school staff, students and other officers easily can identify them.
“In talking with law enforcement, there was concern about other agencies responding in the event of an emergency, and not being able to identify law enforcement from another threat,” DCSD Chief Operations Officer Bill Moffitt said. “So the agreement we landed on was a soft uniform.”
Because officers will report to schools in unmarked cars, those outside the building won’t know when law enforcement is on campus.
Chief Jeff Streeter said officers will spend an hour every morning and afternoon in each of the city’s three school buildings. They’ll interact with students and staff, which Streeter said isn’t unlike their previous school visits.
“Lone Tree has always participated with the school district in training classes, DARE being one of them, weekly or every other week,” he said. “So now we’ll be there on a daily basis.
“I think it’s a good program. I think it does give us another layer of safety.”
The sheriff’s office, meanwhile, is responsible for 38 charter, middle and elementary schools. Like Lone Tree, the office doesn’t plan to hire additional officers to do the work.
“We have a little under 300 sworn officers,” sheriff’s spokesman Sgt. Ron Hanavan said. “Out of those 300, people can basically on their days off sign up for extra duty. There wouldn’t be enough funding to hire additional officers. We’re doing it for us in the most cost-effective way.”
Lone Tree won’t use patrol officers, instead relying on those who work in the investigations division.
The Parker Police Department plans to hire an additional officer to help implement the program. Castle Rock is relying on existing staff this year, but will hire and train two more officers by the start of the 2014-15 academic year, according to town spokeswoman Caroline Kipp.
“We’re really confident this is going to be successful,” Moffitt said. “I think it’s going to be an excellent additional lawyer of security that really strikes a partnership in the community and the county as a whole.”