The Olympia Police Department’s school resource officer at Olympia High School is being reassigned to patrol duties because of a shortage of patrol officers in the city, a police spokeswoman said Friday.
Friday was the last day at Olympia High School for the assigned officer, who also worked out of other schools on Olympia’s east side when needed. .
Olympia Police Department spokeswoman Laura Wohl said OPD simply needs more officers patrolling and responding to calls for service.
Olympia High School already has a security guard assigned to the campus full time, Olympia School District spokeswoman Rebecca Japhet said Friday. Now, the district plans to hire a second security guard.
“That’s being advertised now,” she said of the position.
But Japhet made it clear the decision to reassign the school resource officer, or SRO, is not a district decision. “We’d like to keep our SRO,” she said.
Police hope the reassignment is temporary, OPD spokeswoman Wohl said Friday. She said the school resource officer at Capital High School will remain there and will be available to west-side elementary schools.
“It’s a temporary change, due to the fact that we are very short of commissioned officers,” Wohl said.
Right now, there are seven officers being trained to join OPD, Wohl said. But it can take up to a year from the date of hire for a police cadet to complete training, join the department and go on solo patrols, she said.
Wohl said the officer shortage is not a budget issue. “We have the money, we just don’t have the bodies,” she said.
There are currently 68 commissioned police officers at OPD and 12 openings for officers, she said.
Wohl said it is difficult to find qualified police officer candidates. From a pool of 300 applicants, for example, only eight candidates might be interviewed to join the force, she said.
There are strict physical and mental fitness guidelines and background checks for prospective officers.
Wohl said that if the cadets currently training join the police force as expected, Olympia High School should have an officer reassigned to it sometime in 2014.
A school resource officer at Black Hills High School in Tumwater was involved in the arrest of a student earlier this week after Tumwater police found three guns, ammunition, possible gunpowder, and fireworks in his home. A friend had reported to Tumwater police that the 14-year-old Black Hills student had earlier threatened to shoot students at the school.
However, the friend in the Black Hills case made the report at the Tumwater Police Station, not to a school resource officer. The Black Hills resource officer was involved in making the arrest.
Jeremy Pawloski: 360-754-5445 firstname.lastname@example.org