It’s almost certain that a current Portage police officer will be tabbed for the new post of school resource officer — a position approved Thursday by the Portage Common Council.
Police Chief Ken Manthey said he is “99 percent sure” that the job will go to one of several experienced officers who have expressed interest in being the officer who will spend most of his or her time in Portage’s schools.
But despite Thursday’s unanimous Common Council approval, and the Portage Community School Board’s approval earlier this month, there are still some issues to be ironed out before the school resource officer can start work in January.
Council member Mark Hahn (who is retired from the Portage Police Department) said Thursday that a change he had previously requested in the school officer’s contract — to clarify that the police chief, and not the school superintendent, has authority over the officer’s schedule — was not made, nor is it part of the pact approved by the School Board.
The measure approved at Thursday’s Common Council meeting includes that clarification. City Administrator Shawn Murphy said the revised contract would now have to go back to the School Board.
Also, Manthey said, the agreement between the city and the school will be shown to representatives of the Wisconsin Professional Police Association, the union that represents Portage Police Department officers, as a courtesy, before city officials proceed with hiring the officer.
The renewable contract, running from January 2019 through August 2021, calls for the school resource officer to be assigned primarily, but not necessarily exclusively, to the schools, and to have an office in at least one Portage Community School District building.
He or she would be a city employee, but the school district would assume two-thirds of the position’s cost, which totals about $110,505 for wages, benefits, equipment and a squad car.
In addition to enforcing laws in the schools — including the issuance of juvenile citations — the officer would have educational responsibilities, and would be expected to be present at special events such as home football games.
It was the scheduling issue that concerned Hahn.
The original contract gave the school superintendent authority over the officer’s schedule, and authority to approve “flex time” when the officer is expected to be on the job outside of regular school hours.
The agreement, as amended by the Common Council, would clarify that the officer would answer to the police chief, including on matters of scheduling.
“Our chief has got full responsibility over the resource officer,” said council member Dennis Nachreiner.
Even with the issues to be worked out, Manthey said he is sure a school resource officer will be selected well before the January start date.
There are no plans to advertise the resource officer post outside of the Portage Police Department, Manthey said.
However, the department will advertise for a new officer to succeed whoever is chosen for the school resource post, he said.