By Gregg Jones, Union Missourian Editor
A third school resource officer (SRO) will likely be hired by next school year in a joint venture between the city and Union R-XI School District. Union Police Chief Norman Brune told members of the city’s parks, building, development and public service committee that there is a need for an additional SRO to be posted at Central Elementary.
“Their (an officer) presence aids in the security of the school,” he said. “Times have changed and especially after Sandy Hook (shooting).”
There are now two SROs, Kevin Anderson, who is stationed at Union High School; and Rod Tappe, who works out of Union Middle School.
Brune explained that there are more than 3,000 students in schools within Union, including Union R-XI and Immaculate Conception Grade School.
Less than half of the students are at UHS and UMS.
While the SROs visit each school within the district, a third officer will create a safer environment for more students, Brune noted.“When we talk about any armed gunman coming into an elementary school and shooting kids, it raises the bar and we have a responsibility to keep our kids safe,” he said.
Anderson, who already was employed by the police department, began work as an SRO in 2003. Tappe began working as an SRO in 2010. He also had already been with the department.SROs do go to other schools, and teach D.A.R.E classes, and a new officer at Central Elementary will provide a quicker response time by officers to Clark-Vitt and IC, Brune said.A Union SRO does not go to Beaufort School, which is outside the city limits.
He added that 30-40 percent of cases in which an officer can assist with behavioral problems occur at schools other than UHS and UMS.Under an agreement with the school district, during the school year half of the officers’ salaries are paid by the district. The other half, and the full salary during summer months, is paid by the city of Union.
The proposed third SRO would be contracted in a similar agreement. The school district also would fund some vehicle repair and maintenance costs.
“The cost is shared fairly well for anything that is school related,” Brune said.
The new SRO officer would be a veteran officer, he added, but that would open a slot for the department to hire a new officer. The city now has 21 officers.
Brune noted that the city would pay the salary of the new SRO during the summer months, but the additional officer would provide patrol in areas where teens hang out in the summer months.“This would give us another officer during the summer months — that’s our busiest time,” he said.
Brune further added that Anderson and Tappe already are visible in the parks during the summer. “I think they have made a tremendous difference in the parks,” he said.
Rost added that the swimming pool and other areas of the community also will benefit from additional patrol.
“This has a driven need, but it can benefit having officers other times of the year,” Rost said.Brune added that he will schedule officers who serve as SROs during Friday and Saturday nights in the summer.
Immaculate Conception Grade School is not part of the Union R-XI School District, the SROs still provide services at the parochial school.
However, the school does not provide funding for the SRO.Many students who attend IC through the eighth grade later attend Union High School.
“The school district knows the importance of IC to the district,” Brune said. “They want us to spend time there too.”