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Plum School Board approves establishing an armed police force, seeks supervisor and court approval

Michael DiVittorio
| Wednesday, July 25, 2018, 8:00 p.m.

Armed police officers may be stationed at each Plum School District building this coming school year.

Those plans moved one step closer to fruition with the school board’s authorization of Superintendent Brendan Hyland to bolster its security department, and Solicitor Bruce Dice to file a petition in Allegheny County Court to approve such armed personnel.

The school directors approved the move 8-0 vote July 24. Board member Angela Anderson was absent.

“We are voting on creating a school police force because we as a board are taking safety seriously,” Vice President Vicky Roessler said.

She said the district is working with borough officials, including Plum police Chief Jeff Armstrong, to “create a model of safety that’s second to none.”

Hyland said Armstrong would be involved in the hiring process, with step one being to find a supervisor. That supervisor would then assist in screening the other officer candidates.

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

The force would cost about $190,000 of the $326,000 safety budget.

“It’s necessary that we take every precaution that we possibly can to keep our students safe,” Hyland said. “We don’t want to be the district that’s asking the question later on, ‘What could we have done?’ We’re taking a proactive approach with this, and I think a lot of other districts are making that same move as well … We’re going to be very methodical and going to involve people in the process that have an understanding of how to use firearms.”

Hyland also wants the new officers build positive relationships with students and know how to deescalate situations.

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

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, or via Twitter @MikeJdiVittorio.

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