School district pays half of SRO's base salary

The security partnership that has been built over the years between the Hannibal Police Department and Hannibal public school district reached a new level Wednesday night when the Board of Education accepted the city's offer of a third school resource officer (SRO).

School board members Michael Holliday and Mark Bross expressed appreciation for HPD's ongoing efforts to help the school district provide security for students and staff.

"I want to thank you (Police Chief Lyndell Davis) and your department for everything you have done," said Holliday.

"I appreciate everything you have done in partnership with us, not only the SROs, but through other resources and training. It's been good," said Bross.

"I feel very appreciative," added Superintendent Susan Johnson. "We've always had such a good rapport with HPD."

In talking with school officials from around the state Johnson has an even greater appreciation for what is being done locally in support of school security.

"Especially since February (Parkland, Fla., school shooting) I have had conversations with a lot of other communities. I don't think people truly understand how good we have it as far as the support we receive, having not one, not two, but now with three SROs," she said. "There are many, many, many communities that don't even have one. I think that says a lot about our Police Department, our City Council and our community as a whole."

Adding a third SRO was not a decision made in haste.

"To be honest I've had this in my mind for many years," said Davis to the school board during its Wednesday night meeting. "You sit around with these plans and think, 'When is the right time?' There is always either a budgeting issue or a staffing issue. But with everything that's went on, this is the right time. We're going to make it happen. With your blessing, your support, you're going to have your third SRO officer beginning at the start of the new school year."

While the school year will start with three officers in place, a permanent appointment to the three-person SRO team may not occur until 2019.

"I hope by the first of January to have a permanent person," said Davis. "This gives me time because I want to pick the right person, with the right temperament, because not everybody can deal with kids. I have good people, but I want to pick the right person for the right job."

One of the current SROs will be receiving a promotion, which Davis believes will expedite the decision-making process.

"You will have an in-house supervisor to oversee that (campus) more directly rather than a lieutenant doing it from afar," he said.

"With that third person being in a supervisory role, kind an overseer person, that will help us as a school system because a policeman looks at things differently than a school person. They see things through a different lens," added Johnson.

Davis described the third officer's duties as being that of a "floater," talking to school staff and going where he or she is needed on campus.

"I think having a third officer will open us up to a lot more things that we could not do in the past," said the chief. "This is a substantial step toward addressing some of the concerns that parents had, I think that you (school board) have and I have had."

While pleased to be providing a third SRO, Davis acknowledged that security providers need to remain vigilant.

"I'm not here to tell you that it's a cure-all for all your security problems. There is no such thing. But this is a major step in the right direction," he said. "It's one more well-trained, armed officer that should add to the support you already have with the other (school resource) officers."

Davis' appearance before the school board came one night after going before the City Council with his proposal. The police chief said he encountered "very strong support" on Tuesday night. Bross, who was in attendance on Tuesday night at City Hall, described the Council's reaction to Davis' plan as "very enthusiastic."

Davis explained why he felt compelled to go before the Council.

"I was not asking for extra bodies. I was not asking for extra money from the city. I'm using the resources I already have. It was in my authority to do it (add a third SRO), but I wanted their blessing on this," he said.

On Tuesday night, Councilwoman Melissa Cogdal praised Davis for going "above and beyond to do as much as he possibly can (security-wise) with very little funding."

"You didn't come to us asking for more, but you found the means to take care of it," said Mayor James Hark. "I appreciate you being so frugal with the assets of the city and those assets the taxpayers provide for it."

Reach reporter Danny Henley at danny.henley@courierpost.com