DAYTON — After straining its assets to provide rotating school resource officers to Wilbur S. Pence Middle School, the Dayton Police Department has been granted permission from Town Council to begin the search for an additional officer.
Council voted unanimously at its regular meeting Monday night to amend the budget to allow the department to hire an eighth officer.
Specific budget allocations were not made, but the cost for salary and benefits has been estimated at about $51,000.
“We’ve been conservative with our budget, but now we are in turn acting upon that,” Mayor Charles Long said, assuring that the budget could accommodate the additional burden even if funds had to be drawn from reserves.
“Our reserves reflect more than we have ever had,” he said.
Since Dec. 15, a day after 26 people, including 20 children, were gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Dayton Police Chief Donnie Conley has positioned an officer in Pence Middle School during all school hours.
Along with Operation Care, a program in which the department reaches out to assist the community in various ways, the impromptu SRO program has stretched the force to its limits, Conley said.
Officers rotate shifts at Pence, so one is always present during school hours without the department designating a single SRO.
“Then all their staff gets to know all of my staff, and all of my staff gets to know all of their staff,” Conley said.
Regardless of the outcome at Monday night’s meeting, Conley had resolved to continue the police presence at Pence.
“Ever since the Sandy Hook incident, we are determined that we never have to go through something like this,” he said.
He added that every member of the department will receive training as an SRO — which means that officers will learn to mentor students and assist in civics classes — by the start of the next school year.
“I’m excited and very happy and fortunate I have a council that has always been supportive of me and the department,” Conley said.