A retired state trooper and a retired New Kensington detective have joined the Plum School District police force.
Board members unanimously voted to hire Dwight Locke and Jim Horwatt Tuesday night.
The move brings the district’s police force to four officers and its supervisor, former McKeesport Capt. of Detectives Tim Hanna.
Superintendent Brendan Hyland said it will take approximately three weeks or less to petition Allegheny County courts to approve the two new hires as armed officers and have them patrolling the schools.
The district formed its own police force last year with the goal of having at least one officer in each of the buildings. It could hire another officer by the end of March.
Hanna screened the police candidates, who both have experience working with students and many years in law enforcement.
“Dwight (Locke) has an intimate knowledge of the district,” said Hanna. “He’s got kids that graduated from here. He’s got grand kids in the school district now. He worked security (at the high school), knows a lot of the safety protocols. A lot of the stuff that he knows I would have to teach to someone new.”
Locke worked as a state trooper for multiple years and spent the last 10 as a Plum High School security guard. He’s the uncle of current Oblock Junior High and Holiday Park Elementary Officer Joe Locke.
Horwatt is a retired New Kensington police detective sergeant and current Gateway School District police officer. He’s also a certified Drug Abuse Resistance Education instructor and is leaving Gateway to come to Plum.
“Everything we talked about was student-centered and about being a positive role model,” Hanna said of Horwatt’s interview. “This is another one coming to us with school-based experience.”
Craig Harnish, who patrols Center and Pivik elementaries, worked as a Gateway police officer last year.
Hanna said the district’s police force has a three-year labor contract, with officers making $22 per hour the first year, $23.50 in year two and $25 the final year.
District officials said officers have been welcomed by students and the community.
“I’m very happy with what they’re doing,” school board President Scott Coulson said. “The feedback from the students is most important to me. Our students feel safe. That’s our highest priority.”