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Plum/Oakmont

Plum School District eyes its own police force

Michael DiVittorio
| Wednesday, July 11, 2018, 5:25 p.m.

Plum School District officials want to establish their own police force with an armed guard in every building.

On July 10, board members discussed hiring five guards and a supervisor and plan to vote on a resolution formally creating the security department July 24.

The resolution will be submitted as part of a petition to the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas. A judge would have to grant permission before armed patrols would be stationed.

Superintendent Brendan Hyland said the hope is to hire a supervisor before the first day of school Aug. 23, and have that person be involved in the screening process of the other guards during the 2018-19 school year.

“We want to do this very carefully and methodically,” Hyland said. “We’re looking into doing one person per school. We’re going to see how that person works out, and probably start at the high school first. We’re going to make sure we hire the right people. We’re not going to do it all at one time.”

The district wants guards with experience working with people and firearms and who know how to deescalate situations.

Ideal candidates for the six full-time positions would be retired law enforcement officers.

Assistant Superintendent Rick Walsh said the force would cost approximately $190,000 of the $326,000 safety budget.

The district currently has two unarmed guards at the high school and one school resource officer supplied by Plum police.

Walsh said the plan is to maintain those positions and re-evaluate them after the armed guards are in place.

“We want to crawl, walk and then run,” Walsh said.

Board Vice President Vicky Roessler said the need for the district’s own force is not a reflection of borough police service.

“We have a great working relationship with the borough,” Roessler said. “Unfortunately, these are the times we live in. You have to take the safety of the students seriously and be proactive.”

Borough Manager Michael Thomas was at the district workshop discussion about the proposed police force. He declined to comment.

Gateway School District founded its own armed police force in 2016. All of those officers are retired policemen. Superintendent William Short did not return calls seeking comment.

Michael DiVittorio is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Michael at 412-871-2367, mdivittorio@tribweb.com or via Twitter @MikeJdiVittorio.

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