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Longview receives continued federal funding for school officers, during 'time-intensive' start to year

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Longview police are receiving its 11th consecutive federal award to cover part of a long-running program to place officers in city public middle and high schools where alleged crimes are reported daily.

Longview Capt. Branden McNew said the beginning of the school year was “very time intensive” for resource officers. One unsubstantiated report included a student allegedly making threats to bring a gun to Mark Morris High School on Sept. 14. McNew said reports have slowed down since.

He said other reports school resource officers receive include physical fights and drug or alcohol possession or intake. School resource officers do not discipline for school policy infringements like dress code violations, he added.

The goal of the program, McNew said, is to “build relationships with students” before an alleged crime occurs, “to get kids set on the right path,” and not necessarily to arrest them.

Award

For at least a decade, McNew said two Longview officers have held offices at public high schools to provide security, build student trust and investigate school-related crimes. He said the officers work school hours, with one stationed at R.A. Long High School, and the other at Mark Morris High School. Both officers share duties at the city’s public middle schools, McNew said. Longview officers rotate every four years to cover the district, he added.

A bureau of the U.S. Department of Justice announced the city is receiving nearly $11,000 out of the state’s $1.89 million award to cover law enforcement efforts like crime reduction and re-entry services.

The award will cover about 10% of the cost of one of Longview’s school resource officers. The school district and police department split the remaining cost, McNew said. The Longview program has been awarded an average of $15,301 since 2011, according to the Bureau of Justice Assistance. In total, the program has received about $168,313 for the DOJ roughly over the last decade, while the cost of a school resource officer is about $120,000 a year for salary and benefits.

In the 2019-20 Legislative session, the state codified the definition of a school resource officer as a commissioned law enforcement officer with authority to make arrests, and now requires districts with officers to create formal policies around the program. As of 2017, the American Civil Liberties Union reported 84 of the state’s 100 largest school districts have assigned officers at schools.

According to the Longview School District’s state report card for the 2019-2020 school year, 199, or 2.8% of the district’s 6,986 students received an expulsion of one or more days. The grade with the highest amount of expulsions was ninth grade, with 7.6% of the total district expulsions.

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