Havre Public School may be getting a community resource officer through the city’s police department.
The officer would patrol the district’s schools, with an emphasis on Havre High School, and conducting investigations and breaking up fights. But most important, the officer would interact with students daily.
School Superintendent Andy Carlson told the trustees Tuesday night that Havre is the only Class A school in Montana without a full-time resource officer.
The officer would work school hours, and would return to regular police work when school is closed, he said.
Primarily, the officer’s work would be at Havre High School, but the officer would do work at the other schools, Carlson said.
Carlson said he envisioned an officer who would be available for regular police work, but who would also interact with young people so they see police on a day-to-day basis, not just when they are in trouble. The officer could also help out in some classes, he said. For instance, an officer might take part in a history class where the law and the judicial system are being studied, he said.
The presence of a police officer might reduce the number of hallway fights, some administrators felt.
“We are seeing an increase in the number of physical conflicts and the boldness of conflicts, ” he said.
Havre High vice principal Kip Lewis said when he worked at another school district, having a police officer in the building reduced the number of fights dramatically.
“There are times when I am concerned for the safety of our staff, teachers and students, ” Carlson said.
Sometimes unruly parents, displeased with a teacher, come to the office and demand to see the teacher immediately, ” he said.
“They will come into the building and say ‘I want to talk to so-and-so, I want to talk to them now and I don’t want anyone in my way, ’” he said.
Having an officer in the building might calm such a person, he said.
Only a small percentage of students and parents create those kinds of problems, he said, but it is still cause for concern.
Carlson stressed that the district is only in the early stages of looking into the idea. It is unclear what action the Montana Legislature might take about school funding. If the district doesn’t get enough money, the officer position would be put on hold, he said.
He has spoken to some other districts about the idea and will get more information from others before bringing the idea back to the school board.
He said the Havre Police Department already has a grant-funded community officer who sometimes come to the high school and also serves Montana State University-Northern and other community groups.
And different officers come into the school on a variety of matters, he said.
But having a full-time officer assigned to the district — an officer the students could get to know before there is a problem situation — would be very helpful.
School board members said it was important that the officer be someone who finds it easy to deal with young people.
Carlson said he was confident that if a particular officer was not working out, the department could assign another officer.
“I’m sure there a people who are great officers, but are not good at dealing with young people, ” he said.