by Geoff Fox
With the recent shooting at an elementary school in Texas, Councilman Josh McCusker floated the idea to town officials about using funds from Harvest and using it to hire a school resource officer for the schools in Hancock.
The idea comes after Officer Quentin Brown resigned earlier this month and the notion to hire an officer to fill his spot to give the town five police officers. “Instead of looking at looking for one, maybe we should look at how much money we’re receiving from Harvest and put that back into maybe some school resource officers that are provided by the town,” McCusker said noting everything going on in the world today.
If the town could fund the officers from the Harvest money, McCusker said there isn’t a better way to spend the money.
Currently, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office supplies school resource officers to schools in Washington County. However, those officers are sometimes shared.
The resource officer for Hancock is also the officer for Clear Spring. Councilman David Kerns said the resource officer who covers Smithsburg also covers nine other schools.
McCusker said the town does have an officer on duty every day, it puts the resource officer 20 minutes away should something happen.
Kerns added the Hagerstown schools are covered by the city, but he isn’t sure exactly how many officers each school has.
McCusker said they wouldn’t hear anything bad from the community should the town furnish full-time officers for the schools while students are in class.
In doing so, the town would also have to talk to Washington County Public Schools as there are security concerns with doors in the back of buildings that could be opened, but McCusker said the schools are small enough there should only be one entry point to the school.
If the town steps up and does fund their own police officers for Hancock MiddleSenior High School and Hancock Elementary, McCusker said it would look bad on those who should have stepped up to provide officers.
It would also turn other municipalities into asking why if Hancock can do it, why couldn’t they be helped as well.
“Maybe it will evolve into the sheriff agreeing to provide an officer at our school,” McCusker said.
Officer Shawn Faith said it’s a good idea to think about, but officials would need to think about what the officer would be doing after school ends and putting a sixth officer into the HPD force.
Kerns said if the town were to provide the officer and have a six-officer police force, the nice thing would be the schools are closed and the sixth officer would be available to HPD in the summer when everyone wants to take a vacation. Faith added summer is also HPD’s busy time.
McCusker added the officer would also put more pressure on the Sheriff’s Office if the Hancock officer was at the schools and deputies had to answer calls in Hancock.
Councilman Roland Lanehart, Jr. said it could come to the point where every school is going to need an officer there. McCusker said it hasn’t happened here yet.
Faith said recent events in Hancock where the schools have gone into lockdown caused people on Facebook to “destroy” the police officers.
“How much better would citizens feel if there’s a cop at that school with their kids all the time?” McCusker asked.
“It would make the parents more content,” Faith added. If the town could provide a full-time officer at the school, Kerns said it could show the town is willing to step up and show how important the school is to the community if WCPS were to look again at closing Hancock High School in the future.
Lanehart brought up the county possibly paying 50%, but Kerns said these questions should be directed at the newly elected officials once they are in office.
“I’ve seen a few, maybe, come up here but not too many of them are coming up this way and that’s a question we need to ask them,” he said.
Faith said there is also a negative to having the county fund part of the officer’s salary.
The county could decide they don’t want to fund the officer anymore and the officer would be lost and everyone being in limbo into who would pay for the officer.
Kerns said the conversation that needs to be ongoing and see what can be done.
“If little old Hancock can do it, that’s going to put a lot of pressure on the board of education,” McCusker said.
There’s also legislation in Annapolis to make recreational marijuana legal in Maryland. This could mean more money coming into Harvest and in turn, Hancock.
“What better way to use weed money than to put it into police officers,” McCusker said, drawing a few laughs from councilmembers.
Mayor Tim Smith said it’s a good idea, but Hancock is still part of Washington County and if the town goes out and gets a resource officer, the county would still have to give Hancock its fair share since its residents pay taxes.
No action came from McCusker’s idea, he just wanted to throw the idea out to the other town officials to think about how much money is coming in from Harvest.