ShareThis Page
Westmoreland

Hempfield schools to get own police force

Patrick Varine
| Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2018, 3:39 p.m.
Hempfield School District’s chief resource officer, Len Lander, watches the hallways as students change classes at Hempfield Area High School on Friday, April 6, 2018.
Hempfield School District’s chief resource officer, Len Lander, watches the hallways as students change classes at Hempfield Area High School on Friday, April 6, 2018.

Hempfield Area schools soon will be protected by their own police force.

School security officers, currently independent contractors, will become full-fledged district employees. Administrators will petition the Westmoreland County Court of Common Pleas to appoint them as designated school police officers, empowered to carry weapons and detain suspects.

School board members voted 7-2 to make the changes after an executive session at Monday’s meeting.

The employment changes take effect Oct. 1. Officers will earn $20 per hour and receive benefits.

Currently, eight of nine security staff members are authorized to carry weapons, a Taser and pepper spray, according to district human resources director Bob Reger. One member has the authority to issue citations for summary offenses and detain a student until law enforcement arrives.

“The district will be petitioning the court to grant all powers under (state law) to all 13 members of the security team,” Reger wrote in an email.

Board members Paul Ward and Chris Rossman voted against the move.

“I do support the school police force,” Ward said. “I just feel that things were working well under the process we had in place. I didn’t see any compelling reasons to take any action at this time.”

Ward said school safety is a top priority for both him and other district officials, but “I do think the employment status, versus having them as independent contractors, is something to consider,” he said.

Ward said a particular concern is the cost of retirement contributions.

”It’s been increasing year over year,” he said.

Board member David Iwig, who voted in favor of the move, said budgetary concerns are unfounded.

“Voting to bring them in as employees also brings along a $34,000 savings over having them as independent contractors,” Iwig said. “As employees, we can group their insurance in with the other district employees.”

Rossman shared some of Ward’s concerns.

“I’m a huge advocate of having a school police presence,” Rossman said. “I like the contractor angle, to allow the people who specialize in this sort of thing to do just that. It’s a necessary thing for a school district, but I don’t think it’s in their wheelhouse as far as the management and other issues that go along with it.”

Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Patrick at 724-850-2862, pvarine@tribweb.com or via Twitter @MurrysvilleStar.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me