Williams students will benefit from increased safety this school year with the return of a School Resource Officer (SRO).
Williams Unified School District (WUSD) received a grant to pay for the SRO for this school year after the Arizona legislature allocated an additional $2 million for school safety programs.
"It's a really, really great opportunity," said WUSD Superintendent Rachel Savage. "Having a uniformed officer on campus is not only an incredible deterrent, but it's also just a great opportunity to have that first line of defense with students, whether they have needs or we need (the officer's) assistance in dealing with safety issues."
In the past, Savage said WUSD had received the school resource officer grant for about seven years. But with a decline in state funding, Williams has not received the grant since the 2010-2011 school year.
The SRO will provide added safety at the school, as well as develop positive relationships with students. The grant will pay for the SRO's salary and benefits, which is about $27,270 for 26 weeks.
The Williams Police Department will hire the officer. Police Chief Herman Nixon said the department is completing a background check on a retired police officer, and hopes the officer can start the first week of November.
"The biggest thing is we want our kids to have a safe learning environment, and in today's world with all the shootings that have occurred in all these schools, I'd just feel so much more comfortable having an armed officer at the schools in case something like that occurs," Nixon said.
The officer will work 40 hours per week, split between the elementary-middle school and high school, through the end of the school year in May. The SRO and the school principals will all go through a training before the SRO starts working.
The grant also requires that the SRO provide 90 hours of law enforcement education, which Nixon said could include teaching students about arrest procedures and Fourth Amendment rights.
Having a uniformed officer in the schools can also prevent problems, Nixon said.
"We've seen a rise in issues that we didn't have prior when we had that SRO there," he said. "We've seen more theft in the school, as far as personal property from other students. We've seen an increase in truancy. We've seen an increase in kids, you want to say just being kids, but disrupting the facility because they know there's not an officer there."
Besides the safety and educational components, the SRO will also be able to get to know the students and establish a good rapport with them.
"That's very important for the youth of our community to realize that police officers are people too, and they're there to help you," Nixon said. "Of course we have to take action when you get in trouble, but they also are there in case you've got something going on that you can't talk to a parent about, that you don't want to talk to a teacher about, that you want to talk to us about."