Funding denied for school officers

The recent denial of a federal grant means three Mesa County positions for school resource officers that were axed in a steep budget cutting process in 2010 won’t be returning anytime soon, the Mesa County Sheriff’s Department said Friday.

Authorities learned their application for $545,000 was rejected by the Department of Justice Community Oriented Policing Services Hiring Program. The money would have paid to restore salaries and benefits of three deputies for three years.

The Sheriff’s Department had been waiting for word on the grant since late May, when the Mesa County Commission signed off on the application.

“Some of the stuff they did we really can’t measure,” Tim Leon, safety coordinator with School District 51, said of the officers’ work in local schools. “There are safety issues they used to deal with which have now been assumed by our staff, which is already stretched thin.”

A decline in county revenue in 2010 forced the department to slash three positions for officers at Grand Mesa, Mount Garfield and Redlands middle schools, plus the 10 elementary schools that feed those middle schools. They were also in the hallways of Central High School.

Today, one Sheriff’s Department school-resource officer is assigned to all 14 facilities. Leon, however, said authorities have far from abandoned local schools.

“We still have very good response times,” Leon said. “From one standpoint, it’s been a good thing because we’ve had to get more people cross-trained on protocols and procedures for things like lockdowns and fire evacuations.”

New school-resource officers are not among the Sheriff Department’s 2012 budget requests for nine new full-time employees, Mesa County Undersheriff Rebecca Spiess said.


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