DCPS adds officers to cover elementary schools

Oct. 1—The Daviess County Public Schools Police Department has expanded, with the addition of two officers that will largely be devoted to the district's elementary schools.

Officers Jared Ramsey and Jeff Payne have joined the department. With the two new officers, the police department has seven full-time officers and one substitute officer available for duty, Superintendent Matt Robbins said Friday.

Increasing the size of the district's police department was part of the DCPS strategic plan, Robbins said.

"The idea that we have been able to execute is we will have one office for our east side elementary schools, and one for our west side elementary schools," Robbins said.

The district has one officer at both high schools and at each of the middle schools. When the plan for a DCPS police department was created, the middle school officers were also assigned to respond to elementary schools.

The middle school officers were busy at the middle schools, so their time at the elementary schools was limited, Robbins said.

"That's no fault of theirs," Robbins said, but that school officials wanted officers who could be in the elementary schools while not taking away from the middle schools.

"When they were out (of the middle schools), that building was uncovered, and we didn't feel good about that," Robbins said.

The new officers will spend most of their days visiting the elementary schools, where they will provide security and interact with students, Robbins said.

"This allows up to really check on classroom doors and exterior doors" to make sure the doors are closed and secure, Robbins said.

"For the predominant part of the role, we want them to be officers that connect with kids," so students will feel comfortable discussing potential safety concerns with them, Robbins said.

Another goal is to have the officers undergo training on drug and alcohol prevention, and teach in the elementary schools, Robbins said.

"It has been a long time since we've had a true D.A.R.E. officer," he said. "That would be a great attribute."

The extra officers will also allow the district to send other officers to a school when needed. "It's a really nice feature, without having to pull from the sheriff's office or OPD," who are busy themselves, Robbins said.

A state law requires school districts to have one officer at each school, unless the district can show how they eventually intend to reach that goal.

Robbins said because some campuses have two schools, the additional officers bring the district more in line with the state goal.

"Do we meet what the law calls for? No, we don't," Robbins said. "But it puts us close, when you count those combined campuses."

Robbins said, "We are very proud of the people we have been able to attract into these jobs. They are very fine police officers with many years of experience, and they fit well with the schools."

James Mayse, 270-691-7303, jmayse@messenger-inquirer.com, Twitter: @JamesMayse