Police nab grant for school resource officers

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SNOQUALMIE — The Snoqualmie Police will soon join

the growing ranks of departments with special officers just for the

schools. The police recently received a three-year, $250,000 grant which will

provide two full-time officers for Snoqualmie Elementary,

Snoqualmie Middle School and Mount Si High.

"It would be advantageous to bring an officer in the school to bond

with students and be there to answer basic questions," said Don Isley, director

of public safety.

Isley still needs to hire and train the resource officers, and expects

to have the program running by next September. And having the police in

the schools again will help fill the void from the loss of the D.A.R.E.

program in the mid 1990s.

"We endorse enthusiastically the grant Don Isley wrote. It's a

marvelous opportunity," said Dr. Rich McCullough, superintendent of

the Snoqualmie Valley School District. "With the experience we had with

the D.A.R.E. officers, it's been a phenomenal experience."

The school resource officer program is just in the planning stages

in Snoqualmie. The police department and school district still need to

evaluate the most effective way to use the officers.

"Everything's not in concrete, like how much time the officers will

spend in each school. The needs will dictate that," Isley said.

What is known, however, is that there will always be an officer

available at the schools, and they will be there to answer questions from

students, parents and staff.

"I'd like to see the bonding of officers and students not only in

the schools, but when they see them on the street they can say hello,"

Isley added.

The Duvall Police Department also launched a school resource

officer program at Cedarcrest High, Cherry Valley Elementary, Stillwater

Elementary and the Multi-Age Program.

Mark Leitl, the officer assigned to the schools, divides his time

between the D.A.R.E. programs at the elementary schools and as a law

enforcement liaison at the high school.

"If we can get kids to see us as human beings and break down the

stereotype of police officers, this program is a success," said Duvall Police

Sgt. Bob Akey. "If they view Mark differently, they'll view us differently.

And then there'll be a change in attitude."

One of the issues that Leitl has been able to alleviate already is

the speeding problem in front of the school along Northeast 150th

Street. Since the school opened, residents have continually complained about

the high school students speeding through the neighborhood. So from the

first day of school, Leitl has been patrolling the area — first giving

warnings, then handing out citations.

"The kids tell me that they can't believe I'm still stopping people

because they should know I'm going to be there," he said.

Though Leitl can be found enforcing the speed limit in the

mornings, most of his time is spent in the schools answering law-enforcement

related questions and providing information to students and staff.

"There's just so many goofy rumors out there," he said.

"Someone asked me that if they sucked on a penny, would I be able to tell if

they've been drinking."

There are also serious issues students approach Leitl with, such as

asking him to facilitate conflicts and helping seniors do research for their

final projects.

"I have gotten a lot of positive contacts and have met a lot of kids

I wouldn't have met," he said.

"We've also received positive feedback from parents and the

administration," Akey added. "I know

this program will work and it's meeting its goals."

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