Edmonds School District changes how cops cover its campuses

The district has opted for a less formal relationship that doesn’t station officers at every high school.

LYNNWOOD — The Edmonds School District is changing the role of law enforcement on high school campuses.

In June and August, school board members voted to let expire resource officer contracts with the Edmonds, Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace police departments, as well as the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office. Those deals designated a police officer or sheriff’s deputy to each of the district’s five high schools. Now, administrators are considering a program that maintains the relationship between schools and police without having an officer on campus.

With a new program, a patrol officer would be selected as a point of contact between law enforcement and a specific high school. They’d know the principal, other administrators and the layout of the school, but they wouldn’t spend much time on campus.

In an emergency, the officer would be called first to respond, if they’re available.

“That way we have officers that know our schools, they know our staff, they know how schools work,” Assistant Superintendent Greg Schwab said. “I think that’s really important.”

Accompanying police departments would provide the service free of charge, and the program would apply to all of the district’s high schools except Lynnwood High.

The Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office, which has jurisdiction over that school, doesn’t have “the capacity to provide a liaison without dedicated funding,” spokesperson Courtney O’Keefe said in an email.

Losing the $109,000 resource officer contract eliminated a full-time deputy position for the sheriff’s office. The district paid 75% of the contract, and the county covered the rest.

Without a deputy, the district will likely hire a school safety officer who won’t carry a gun or be connected to law enforcement but would have “specific safety training,” Schwab said.

This was not the first time the district has moved away from school resource officers.

Facing a budget shortfall in 2010, administrators opted for a liaison officer program. In 2015, the district started bringing law enforcement back to campuses.

This time, the change comes amid a nationwide conversation about police brutality against Black people and the role of law enforcement in every community.

“We’ve gotten quite a bit of feedback from our communities of color,” Schwab said.

He said it wasn’t a “new conversation,” but the police killing of George Floyd in Minnesota brought the topic to a “fever point.”

That led to the unanimous vote in June to let lapse the contracts with the Edmonds, Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace police departments.

At the time, Edmonds Police Chief Jim Lawless said he understood the desire to quickly address social justices but that the board’s decision was “borne out of emotion, not data, and was hastily undertaken.”

Since then, Schwab said, all three police departments have been “nothing but professional” in ironing out the liaison program.

“They know that they’re in the business of serving our communities, and schools are a part of our community,” he said.

Joey Thompson: 425-339-3449; jthompson@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @byjoeythompson.

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