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City approves deal to supply Greater Latrobe with school resource officer

| Tuesday, April 15, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

In approving an agreement with Greater Latrobe School District to hire a school resource officer, Latrobe Councilwoman Julie Bisi said she hopes students can find a mentor in the city police officer.

“I think most often when you hear of tragedies like what happened at Franklin Regional, somebody knew something, but in foresight you just don't pick up on it,” said Bisi, who is a member of the public safety committee. “Maybe having yet another adult around that kids trust, they'll feel a little bit more open.”

Council unanimously approved the agreement and gave city manager Alex Graziani permission to hire the officer at Monday's meeting.

Police Chief Jim Bumar said he wanted to distinguish this position from that of an armed guard, which has a “very narrow description.”

Like a guard, the school resource officer will be armed and have all police powers, in addition to the ability to patrol school buildings and grounds as well as investigate and enforce the law, but the position includes other responsibilities, Bumar said.

“The school resource officer will be a proactive officer, a mentor or role-model figure,” he said, which could include leading educational programs addressing drug and alcohol abuse, conflict resolution, bullying, or cyber crime and exploitation.

“We need to show our students that an authority figure should be respected, not feared, and that an authority figure can help them with problems they may be encountering,” Bumar said.

Officials at Greater Latrobe have been discussing the addition of a school resource officer since February.

When school is not in session, the officer will act as a full-time employee of the Latrobe Police Department responding to calls in the city.

For the first three years, the officer's salary will be funded by grant through the state Department of Education and contributions from the school district totaling $180,000, Graziani said. The base salary for the officer will be $21.79 per hour.

Mayor Rosie Wolford said the similar cost questions were fielded when the city hired a K-9 officer, but the city has funded that program mostly from outside sources, including fundraising.

“I'm hoping the Greater Latrobe community can pull together and help fund the additional costs,” she said after the meeting.

If costs to the city become too great, the agreement can be revisited, Wolford said.

Before the agreement was approved, Councilman Gerry Baldonieri asked whether Unity Township and state police officials should be involved, because four of the five school buildings are in the township, and state police respond to emergencies there.

“That will more than likely be determined by a court of law, but at the moment, my answer is no,” said solicitor Jim Kelly.

Stacey Federoff is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6660 orsfederoff@tribweb.com.

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