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Valley News Dispatch

Armed police to be at all Plum School District buildings this coming school year

Michael DiVittorio
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Plum School District officials hired another retired New Kensington patrolman for its police force, and now can put an armed officer at every building this coming school year.

School board members voted 8-0 Tuesday, Aug. 6 to hire Michael Netzlof as an officer at the high school. School Director Jim Rogers was absent.

Netzlof was selected out of about six candidates. Pay rate was set at $23.50 per hour.

Tim Hanna, district police supervisor and former McKeesport captain of detectives, said Netzlof’s experience and attitude set him apart from the others.

“You interview the best you can, read people the best you can and you go with your best (option),” Hanna said. “I believe he was it. He has my full confidence moving forward.”

Netzlof was a New Kensington patrolman from 1992 until retiring in January 2018. He also worked for four years at other police departments.

Netzlof was the tactical team commander for New Kensington/Lower Burrell critical response team from 2011 to 2018. He’s also a martial arts instructor at CS Kim Karate.

“We’re very happy to have him on board,” board President Scott Coulson said. “His experience is going to be very beneficial for the district.”

Netzlof still needs to be certified by Allegheny County courts, and be sworn in by Plum District Judge Linda Zucco before he becomes an official district officer.

Vicky Roessler, board vice president and safe and supportive schools committee chairwoman, was a catalyst for years in developing a safety coordinator position and the district police department. She said Netzlof’s hiring and having a complete police force are examples of the many actions taken by the district to ensure student safety.

“This creates a foundation for safety that the district can continue to build upon,” she said.

Other ex-New Ken officers on force

Netzlof will join fellow former New Kensington officers Joe Locke, Jim Horwatt and Craig Harnish, who worked for the district force last school year.

“I consider that department a very well-rounded department,” Hanna said about New Kensington. “They’ve seen a large cross-section of society. It’s a culturally diverse community, and that’s important when you’re hiring a police officer. That’s the type of thing you want to know they’ve dealt with.”

Retired state trooper Dwight Locke was hired with Horwatt as a district officer. Locke was the high school front desk’s security guard for nine years prior.

Hanna said the plan is to have Joe Locke at Oblock Junior High, Harnish at Pivik Elementary, Horwatt at Holiday Park, Dwight Lock at Center Elementary and Netzlof at the high school. The first day of school is Aug. 21.

Hanna, who doubled last year as police supervisor and high school officer, will focus more on administrative duties now that he has a full complement of officers.

The police presence was welcomed by many students, staff and parents last year.

Police interactions included giving presentations, a public service announcement contest, periodic visits to classrooms and going over activity books on stranger danger, fire safety and other situations.

“All the officers on the force so far have good relationships with students and staff,” Hanna said. “When I started in October, the police department didn’t exist. I think the district is in a good place with this..”

The district went through two safety and security assessments within the past two years.

Hanna said additional safety protocols and a lot of behind-the-scenes, research-based adjustments were made as a result besides hiring the officers.

The district had a school resource officer from the borough police department last school year.

Coulson said both parties are in negotiations to keep that program going.

Michael DiVittorio is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Michael at 412-871-2367, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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