IC schools revisit possibility of having resource officers in schools

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IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- A new push has started to have police officers patrol the halls of Iowa City schools.

It already happens in Dubuque, Marion and Cedar Rapids schools. School officials in Iowa City said the problem is a combination of finding the money to pay for resource officers and the fact that having an armed guard in the school worries some people.

"I'm not interested in making them look like a miniature Oakdale Prison," said Phil Hemingway with the Iowa City School Board.

Hemingway said that image is a concern when considering putting police officers in schools and, much like in the Florida shooting, simply having a police officer at school won't stop everything.

"With how things have happened, every safeguard that has been put in place can be defeated if someone is determined to do evil," said Hemingway.

"There's no way for us to guarantee that something can't happen regardless of the security measures we take," said Stephen Murley, the superintendent of Iowa City Schools.

Iowa City police said having someone on site could cut down response times and, in extreme cases, save lives.

"It's very valuable and on any call for service we have, the more time that elapses between the event and when we arrive and begin an investigation, the longer the investigation can potentially take," said Sgt. Derek Frank with the Iowa City Police Department.

Murley said there are other benefits, too.

"When officers are present in the building it gives them the opportunity to build relationships with students and staff and perhaps see them in a different light," said Murley.

But money is a big factor. One national study estimates adding a school resource officer costs an average of $75,000 a year.

"Seeing the impact of school funding here this last time around, I don't anticipate it's going to be much rosier in the future so that definitely presents a hurdle for us," said Murley.

"If given the choice of a resource officer and a teacher, I'm going to choose the teacher all the time," said Hemingway.

KCRG spoke on the phone with Principal Scott Kibby with Liberty High School. He said he had experience with resource officers during his time in the Cedar Rapids school district and says it helped build some positive relationships between students and law enforcement.