by Geoff Fox
Town officials continued the discussion about a possible town-funded school resource officer for Hancock Elementary and Middle-Senior High School during the July town meeting. However, the probability might have knocked down, but not fully counted out.
The idea for a town funded officer at the Hancock schools came last month as Councilman Josh McCusker brought it to his fellow town officials.
The money to pay for the officer could come from the money coming into Hancock from Harvest.
“What better way to use weed money than to put it into police officers,” McCusker said at the time.
Fast forward a month and discussions continued with a former detective with Washington County Sheriff’s Office adding to the discussion.
Retired Detective Greg Alton, who was at the meeting as part of his campaign for Washington County Sheriff, told town officials he would keep resource officers in the schools should he be elected. The primary election was held July 19, as the paper was going to print.
McCusker had asked Alton how he felt about the school resource officers, which brought him into the discussion.
Alton told town officials the conversations about the officers usually come up after a school shooting, however he added, they should always have those conversations.
He also noted the training should be always taking place, not just when there’s a mass shooting.
Councilman Roland Lanehart, Jr. told Alton Hancock shares their resource officers with Clear Spring, and rarely is the officer in Hancock.
According to Alton, the Washington County Board of Education wants to expand the SRO to all schools, but the resources aren’t available right now to do so.
Later in the meeting, Town Advisor Bill Valentine said he and McCusker met with two representatives from WCPS and it didn’t sound the board was enthusiastic about the town putting their own officers in the schools.
“In Washington County, the Board of Education pays for all SRO’s and they don’t have enough money to have any more SRO’s,” Valentine said.
He did say it was interesting to find out the training for officers to become and SRO is free of charge.
Valentine made the suggestion to have Hancock Police officers trained to be SRO’s even though they may never be in an SRO at a Hancock school.
His point was the officers go to the school for sporting events or other activities, the county would actually pay the officer for being at the event.
This would help in paying the officers for their overtime as well.
Regulations for being an SRO are vastly different than being a regular police officer, Valentine added.
There are things inside the school system that are criminal activity, which would be handled by police, but others are just policy violations and would be handled differently and not as a police officer.
Valentine said he thinks the Hancock officers should be trained in case something happens at the schools and the SRO is a half hour away.
It was also explained to McCusker that once the Hancock officers are trained as SRO’s, the town could enter into an MOU with the Board of Education similar to what Hagerstown has with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office have.
Under that agreement, McCusker said if WCPS can’t get staffing for a sporting event, they can go to the Police Department and ask if they have any officers available.
McCusker said the Hagerstown Police who are SRO’s are also funded by WCPS.
“They’re definitely open to getting more officers, they want that, it’s just a matter of funding,” McCusker said.
The 2023 fiscal year budget for WCPS went into effect on July 1, so the funding isn’t available. McCusker said there are probably more meetings on the subject in the future.