FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) -Starting Monday, East Allen Schools will officially have a new school resource officer. Allen County Commissioners approved final funding for the position Friday morning.
While the idea of a resource officer isn’t new, it will be the first time an officer has been specifically designated for Leo, Woodlan, and Heritage High Schools. In an age when active shooters are becoming more common, using safety personnel this way has become a high priority.
Last November, Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller came to Leo High School and announced East Allen County Schools was one of dozens of corporations across the state to receive $50,000 in grant money. The new school resource officer (SRO) was initially slated to begin work in January. But county officials said the Indiana Dept. of Homeland Security delayed important paperwork until recently, which is why it took commissioners so long to approve the position.
Despite staffing concerns, the officer comes from the Allen County Sheriff’s Department. Sheriff Ken Fries said that’s because school safety is paramount.
“I have to look at the manpower we have and where it’s best allocated,” Fries said. “With the school shootings we’ve had [around the country] and the different sort of active shooter programs, we need somebody out there at those schools.”
Jeff Studebaker is the safety manager for EACS. He said the new resource officer will have a couple main goals inside the three high schools. He said she will provide a quicker response time for emergency situations and crime prevention through building relationships.
Studebaker hopes to build off what he calls success in schools that already have officers.
“We feel that the SRO in New Haven and our security person at Paul Harding have prevented a lot of things from happening,” Studebaker said. “These kids start seeing police officers as allies instead of an enemy…we’re sure that the same thing will happen in our county schools.”
The new officer will roam between the Woodlan, Leo, and Heritage High Schools. Ultimately, Studebaker said he would like each high school in the district to have its own officer.