Marysville’s top cop wants to do more for youth

MARYSVILLE — Police Chief Rick Smith wants Marysville officers more involved in the lives of children and teens.

It’s something he’d been thinking about long before the Oct. 24 shooting at Marysville Pilchuck High School that ended five young lives, he said.

The police department has two school resource officers, one each assigned to Marysville Pilchuck and Marysville Getchell high schools. They also work at the alternative high school and middle and elementary schools when needed.

At Marysville Pilchuck, the school resource officer was inside the cafeteria within minutes of the gunfire.

Smith wants to expand the scope of the program into a youth services unit, similar to units created by the Everett Police Department and Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office in recent years.

Before the recession, Marysville had four school resource officers, and the police department and the school district split the bill. Marysville police now pay for the two positions.

“We needed to ensure we had a connection with police in the schools,” Smith said. “It’s an impressionable age.”

In leaner years, police departments and school districts around Snohomish County have cut back on cops-in-schools programs, but some have begun to consider bringing them back. The Oct. 24 shooting has refueled the discussion in some local cities.

For the new unit, Smith envisions a sergeant and four police officers, including the school resource officers. Exact details haven’t been figured out yet, he said, and may depend on grant funding. He’s looking for the new unit to launch sometime next year.

The youth services unit would serve schools but also reach out through extracurricular programs.

“It could be chess club. It could be a computer lab. It could be a Little League game,” Smith said.

Schools are a different environment for police than they were decades ago, Smith said. Mental illness and the community heroin epidemic are part of that.

“We’re dealing with a lot more within the schools,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Snohomish Police Department, which is part of the sheriff’s office, expects to add a school resource officer back to Snohomish High School early next year, with ongoing talks about one for Glacier Peak High School.

Elsewhere in the county, some police departments without school resource officers have added extra school-specific duties to certain officers or beats. That’s happened in Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace.

Arlington, Lake Stevens, Mill Creek and Monroe police have school resource officers. Brier, Edmonds, Granite Falls and Mukilteo police do not.

Mukilteo police still work closely with the schools in city limits, Police Chief Rex Caldwell said. They have talked about bringing back school resource officers, but that depends on funding.

The Marysville police department has about 60 commissioned officers serving a city of 60,000.

The Marysville chief hopes grant money will support adding the new positions for the youth services unit to work with kids.

“We’ll listen to what they have to say,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if they’re 8 or 18.”

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