by Jack Mayne In a relatively short meeting Monday night (Oct. 5), the Burien City Council approved a contract to continue a longstanding agreement with Highline Public Schools for a police officer to remain assigned fulltime. The approval of the School Resource officer joint agreement with Highline School District was by a 6-1 vote, with the lone negative vote from Councilmember Lauren Berkowitz. She objected on the grounds that police officers do more harm in schools than they aid students. She said criminalizing school students and having armed police officers in schools was something that should be avoided. In addition, the Council spent a period of time debating fine points in how the city staff and the Councilmembers rate the city managerâ€™s performance, discussing at length what forms should contain and whether forms should all be the same. Gurolâ€™s annual performance assessment is due by yearâ€™s end. Support for school officer Resident Dan Fogerty said the current School Resource officer is more of a resource than a police officer at the schools and often students approach him for help with matters when they have no parents available. â€œI suspect that losing the SRO would cost the city more than the city would save,â€ he said. Resident Ed Dacy said he was surprised at the controversy over extending the joint agreement. The position â€œopens communications between the students and the police, and helps our overall relationship with our citizens and our police department,â€ DacyÂ told the Council. Then resident Charles Schaefer said the teachers do not have time to monitor drugs, weapons or other problems while teaching their classes. After the postponement of a decision two weeks earlier, Highline Principal Victoria Fisher wrote to the city that she believes the School Resource Officerâ€™s â€œpresence prevents many potential altercations, truancies and use of illegal substances.â€ Fisher said the SRO has â€œassessed students who have been suicidal, getting them the resources needed to improve their mental health. â€œOur SRO and security team meets weekly with my administration team to discuss strategies for keeping our students safe, ways to support individual students and updates on activity that has happened in the community that could impact student safety at school. Our SRO is a critical member of this team, keeping us informed and responding to situations as they arise.â€ In a report to the Council, Police Chief Scott Kimerer said, â€œHighline High School had 268 incidents since the start of the 2014 school year. The SRO handled 229 of those incidents.â€ City Manager Kamuron Gurol said the city staff believes that the SRO program serving Highline Public Schools students in Burien is highly regarded and effective. 300 hours of training During an unusually short debate for this Council, it was clear that the majority would do what Gurol suggested â€“ approve the interlocal agreement. He said the person assigned, Officer Eric White, has over 300 hours of training for the position and â€œextensive training in the field.â€ Berkowitz said she was glad he had all that training, but remained opposed to keeping â€œan armed police officerâ€ in the schools. Councilmembers also requested that staff provide statistical information regarding calls for service to schools with an SRO vs. those schools without an SRO, as well asÂ information regarding the number of times the SRO has arrested a student. For 2015-2018, Highline Public Schools has agreed to pay half the cost of the School Resource Officer for services provided during the school year. For 2015-2016, the cost of a fully loaded School Resource Officer during the school year is $151,000, with the School District and the City each paying $75,500. During the summer months, the School Resource Officer works on City specific projects and is fully paid for by the city.]]>
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