The Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office will officially launch the newly formed School Services Unit Friday, March 15, 2013, at Woodside Elementary School in unincorporated Snohomish County near Mill Creek.
After the Dec. 14, 2012 tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, Sheriff John Lovick proposed the School Services Unit to address his vision that the Sheriff’s Office be a school safety resource to our county’s unincorporated schools.
“As far as we know the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office School Services Unit approach to school safety is the first of its kind in the state of Washington, possibly even the nation,” said Sheriff Lovick. “It builds on establishing and maintaining relationships between law enforcement and school districts, school leadership, teachers, staff, students and their families.”
The School Services Unit is under the command of Sgt. Scott Parker and is made up of both School Resource Officers (SROs) and School Services Deputies.
“It is important that the School Services Unit and School Services Deputies not be perceived as a replacement for a School Resource Officer, rather an enhancement to what we currently offer schools in regards to student safety,” said Sgt. Parker. “School Resource Officers will still be the only deputies that are contracted by school districts to work with specific county schools.”
“Everett Public Schools has long appreciated the partnership we have with law enforcement. With schools located in two different cities and in unincorporated Snohomish County, this network of jurisdictions working together on behalf of students is reassuring to our families and our staff,” noted Superintendent Gary Cohn.
According to Mary Waggoner, Everett Public Schools’ Director of Communications, there are six School Resource Officers from the Mill Creek and Everett Police Departments assigned to their their respective schools. None of their schools in unincorporated Snohomish County have School Resource Officers.
The Sheriff’s Office currently employs four School Resource Officers serving the school districts of Stanwood, Sultan, Mukilteo, and Edmonds.
Rikki King of the Everett Herald reported on August 2, 2012, because of budget cuts there are fewer police officers assigned to Snohomish County Schools now than there were a few years ago, “Just a few years ago, almost every major high school in Snohomish County had an on-campus police officer, and some middle schools did, too.”
“Now, with school districts and cop shops similarly hurting for cash, roughly half of those programs have gone away.”
School Resource Officers are considered the “gold standard” as a role for law enforcement within schools, especially secondary schools. Each School Resource Officer focuses on the specific school and community to which they’ve been assigned. They are engaged in and familiar with the day-to-day activities of their school.
Similar to a “patrol beat,” Snohomish County School Services Deputies will serve a large area and large number of schools (there are over 100 public and private schools spread out over almost 2,000 square miles in unincorporated Snohomish County). They will have responsibilities to many schools and their presence or involvement in any individual school may be limited.
Much of this article came from a Snohomish County Sheriff's Office news release with additional information from an Everett Public Schools news release.