Despite a failed agreement, the Delta Police Department is providing a school resource officer for Pike-Delta-York schools this academic year, but the hours won’t be full-time.
The police department’s request for an annual Drug Use Prevention Grant issued by the Ohio attorney general’s office, which helps pay for a full-time school resource officer (SRO), must be resubmitted after the department and the school district “were not able to come to terms for a viable lasting program,” Police Chief Nathan Hartsock said. “There were issues on both sides that was just not going to allow it to work.”
The police department has used the grant the past several years to assist in funding an SRO to teach students the hazards of drug use. Because no agreement was reached this year with PDY schools, the $10,200 grant awarded to Delta police in June had to be withdrawn. Hartsock is currently resubmitting a grant request that would help fund an SRO for fewer hours.
He said the amount of manpower currently within the Delta police department makes it virtually impossible to assign a full-time SRO. The department has five full-time and three part-time officers.
“We at the police department have a very good relationship with our schools and have an officer present whenever possible, but there is an entire village to be watched over, and sometimes, with the single coverage that we have, makes it difficult to have an officer solely dedicated to being in the schools,” Hartsock said.
The department is currently funding an SRO for six to eight hours per week to instruct students in an 11-week anti-drug program similar to the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program. The resubmitted grant request would reimburse the police for that funding.
PDY Superintendent Ted Haselman declined to say why no agreement was reached, but said, “The police department has always worked well with the school district. Unfortunately, we were not able to make something happen due to restrictions on both sides. We’ve got a great relationship, but there are situations on both sides that didn’t allow this to happen.”
Hartsock said the village police and school district will renegotiate next year.
He said state grant money is essential to placing an SRO in Delta schools for enough hours to sufficiently present the anti-drug program. He said officer shortages in police departments are at record numbers, “and with an agency our size, to put an officer in the schools full-time is almost impossible unless outside funding becomes available.”
He said statistics show that offering anti-drug programs to children at a young age can greatly reduce their chances of drug dependency later.
“Delta is no stranger to the opiate problem facing the country today,” Hartsock said. “In the last few years, we have lost too many lives to narcotics. Having people to look to their police department for answers – grant money is crucial at assisting us in combating this problem, not only for manpower issues but to train officers on how to better handle these situations.”
He said the village is investigating its first narcotics-related death this year. In the event of an overdose scenario, the Fulton County Health Department provides Delta police officers with Narcan, a medication which blocks the effects of opioids and can revive the victim.
Beth Thomas, director of the county’s Healthy Choices Caring Communities coalition, said, “We appreciate the effort they’re making that aligns with the effort that we’re making.”
Reach David J. Coehrs at 410-335-2010.