Students thinking of misbehaving in Lake Local Schools after returning from Christmas break may want to rethink their intentions - or tangle with a school resource officer.
Officer Steve Poiry, who has been with the Lake Township Police Department since 2000, and who has been a full-time officer the last six months, began his new assignment this week to ensure the "safety and well-being of the students and the staff" at Lake schools.
A manpower shortage at the police department forced the school district's Drug Abuse Resistance Education officer back onto roadwork more than a year ago, but Lake Township Police Chief Mark Hummer said school and police officials and the township trustees decided it would be more beneficial to put an officer in the schools. He will teach lessons on being drug-free and patrol the schools.
"I'm trying to get the most bang for the buck," Chief Hummer said. "We're thinking that it's going to be a beneficial program."
Officer Poiry said he will primarily be involved with juvenile investigations at the schools along with teaching by incorporating programs like DARE in the classroom.
"Between those two responsibilities, it's going to keep me more than busy," he said.
Other responsibilities will include enforcement, mentoring, working with community block watches, and doing other community relations work.
Chief Hummer said the department is called to the schools a couple of times a week for reasons ranging from an assault to an accident in the parking lot. Officer Poiry will serve as a full-time liaison between the schools and the police department, so he will free up officers to be available elsewhere. Chief Hummer said the hope is that he will prevent incidents from occurring at the schools.
Officer Poiry said he trained to be a resource officer for a week in London, Ohio, and learned how to handle sensitive student issues and how to make the officer's position effective. "I am very excited," Officer Poiry said. "It's a win-win for the whole community, and this will be another way for us to serve our community."
Officer Poiry's salary will remain the same and the plan is for him to be paid by the township at no cost to the district. However, school officials have said if the district's financial condition improves, they would like to share some of the costs.
Officials at the police department and Lake Township trustees plan to re-evaluate the program over the summer and discuss modifications for improvement.
"Every time you try something new, you look at it and evaluate it and make modifications as necessary," Chief Hummer said. "It will be a work-in-progress."
But for now, he said school officials are optimistic about having a resource officer in the schools.