Sheriff to assign 5 deputies for school security patrols

Sheriff’s deputies will be assigned to schools in unincorporated Snohomish County as part of an effort to step up security.

A new five-member school services unit starts in mid-March in response to the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Sheriff John Lovick said.

“I’ve been in public life for a lot of years,” he said. “Nothing has impacted me more than Sandy Hook. Some nights I can’t sleep thinking about it.

“We’ll pull deputies from other responsibilities,” Lovick said. “We believe this is a vital thing for us to do with our officers.”

In addition to providing security, the deputies will review and update school emergency response plans, mentor at-risk students, investigate rumors and follow up on crimes at the school.

Lovick’s plan for adding on-campus officers would reverse a trend in recent years in which cash-strapped school districts and police departments cut back such programs. Countywide, roughly half of those programs were cut.

The plan calls for each deputy to work at between two and nine schools, depending on enrollment, location, the age of the students and any history of crime or violence at the school. The unit won’t be able to cover many of the 106 schools in unincorporated Snohomish County. Which schools will be selected hasn’t been decided.

Lovick said he hopes to expand the school services unit to 10 members by the end of this school year. In addition, he said he would like to recruit a cadre of retired law enforcement officers to work as school volunteers.

Salaries and equipment for the expanded unit is expected to cost about $1 million, he said.

The deputies in the new school services unit would be in addition to law enforcement officers who currently work in Snohomish County schools, some of which are paid for by the school districts.

For example, the Everett Police Department currently provides school resource officers at no cost to North, Evergreen and Eisenhower middle schools.

The school district pays for police officers at Everett, Cascade, Sequoia and Jackson high schools and Heatherwood Middle School, said Jeff Russell, school board president. The officers come from Everett or Mill Creek, depending on the school’s location.

The average cost for each of the three officers the school district pays to have on-campus is $77,501.

The only middle school that currently does not have a police officer assigned on campus is Gateway Middle School, although there is a school district security officer there, Russell said.

Lovick acknowledged that his department likely will need donations from businesses and school districts. “I know budgets are tight,” he said. “I’ll try to speak to every school board I can.”

The money would be well spent, he said. “There’s no greater responsibility than protecting our children.”

Lovick said he is contacting major corporations, such as Costco, Microsoft and Amazon to see if they will donate.

He also plans to meet with leaders of schools in unincorporated Snohomish County.

Lovick outlined last week his proposal to the Everett School Board, making a request for the district to pay for the salary of a deputy for the nine-month school year.

Superintendent Gary Cohn said Lovick has talked to him about paying half the costs for one deputy to work at the district’s schools in unincorporated Snohomish County.

“It’s a wonderful offer,” Cohn said. “We’ll work with the sheriff to make it a reality.”

The school board will consider adding an officer at Gateway Middle School, Russell said. Since it’s located in unincorporated Snohomish County, the officer would come from the sheriff’s office, he said.

Russell said he expects that the school board will discuss the issue at a board meeting in February.

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486; salyer@heraldnet.com.

More in Local News

‘Come talk to me. Don’t jump, come talk to me’

State Patrol trooper Yaroslav Holodkov just happened to be driving by when he saw a suicidal man.

Marysville educators reach out to a newly traumatized school

Several affected by shootings in 2014 offered to talk with counterparts in Eastern Washington.

Hurry! Target will take your old car seat, but not for long

The seats will be taken apart and the various materials recycled.

Sheriff’s Office receives national recognition

Sheriff accepts award “notable achievements in the field of highway safety” over the past year.

Edmonds-Woodway High School briefly locked down

A student tried to stop a fight and a boy, 16, responded by threatening the student with a knife.

Study considers making it legal to grow marijuana at home

The Liquor and Cannabis Board is considering two scenarios for allowing a minimal number of plants.

Minutes mattered the day Pat Ward was brought back to life

The Mukilteo police and fire chaplain died at breakfast. She got a second chance thanks to a waitress.

Woman fatally shot at home near Everett

Another woman and three children, who were also in the home, were not injured.

Cool additions at an elementary school in Everett

A totem pole and new gardens grace the courtyard of Whittier Elementary School.

Most Read