ESD’s School Resource Officer position suspended

There will still be one security officer at Enumclaw High School.

By Kienan Briscoe, For the Courier-Herald

The Enumclaw Police Department will be temporarily suspending its School Resource Officer position at Enumclaw schools, starting this fall and continuing through the beginning of 2024.

The decision is due to “unexpected staffing changes,” according to the EPD, but the department hopes to have the position filled by the time students return from winter break.

“The Enumclaw Police Department is in a cycle of training up new employees to meet the needs of our city and school district. The safety and security of our children and school properties is a top priority for our department,” said EPD Police Chief Tim Floyd.

The EPD will continue to work closely with the Enumclaw School District to ensure that all safety needs will be met during the position’s suspension, the agency wrote in a news release published Sept. 1. According to the release, the agency values its partnership with the Enumclaw School District and wants to ensure a seamless transition as it prepares a School Resource Officer to take over later in the school year.

“We are incredibly grateful for our close partnerships with all of our local law enforcement agencies. We appreciate their prompt response and support. We look forward to welcoming a new School Resource Officer later this school year,” said ESD Superintendent Dr. Shaun Carey.

Enumclaw schools will still begin the school year with one security officer at Enumclaw High School and continue to work in close partnership with the Enumclaw Police Department to respond to safety and security needs.

Typically the district houses two security positions at Enumclaw High School: a district-employed Safe and Civil Schools Officer, and an EPD-employed School Resource Officer.

The Safe and Civil School Officer, which will remain in operation through the SRO’s suspension, provides leadership and support on matters relating to the safety and security of the learning environment, said Jessica McCartney, Director of Communications for Enumclaw School District. This involves patrolling school property; investigating and responding to incidents; and handling records and paperwork, among other things.

The suspended SRO position is employed by the Enumclaw Police Department and funded jointly through the district and the city of Enumclaw. The role aims to reduce crime and improve security while improving the quality of relationships between the EPD and the school district, its employees and students.

Just some of the SRO’s duties include patrolling Enumclaw High School and surrounding areas, and identifying, investigating, deterring and preventing crimes — especially incidents involving drugs, weapons, youth violence, harassment and similar activities.

The SRO also assists with drug and alcohol prevention programs, provides training to school staff and students designed to improve security in the school, provides advice to school district personnel on law enforcement issues, suggests solutions to security problems that arise on school properties, and handles traffic complaints involving students on district properties and adjoining areas.

Although both stationed out of Enumclaw High School, the SRO travels to other schools within the district, but the Safe and Civil Schools Officer serves EHS only.

“The district really values the SRO position for being a liaison in helping facilitate communication between the police department and the school district,” said McCartney. “The SROs that we’ve had in our district, we really valued their ability to build relationships and serve as a mentor and positive relationship with students and law enforcement.”

The school district has always experienced immediate response times from the law enforcement agency and expects to continue experiencing immediate response during the suspension of the SRO position, McCartney continued.

“I think everyone understands the challenges of staffing changes, especially if they’re unexpected,” said McCartney. “You just do your best to meet the needs until you can resolve it, and ultimately fill that position once again.”

The ESD Board voted on Nov. 19, 2018, at their regular board meeting, to approve the School Resource Officer Interlocal Agreement.

Enumclaw schools have had an SRO since Amanda Reeves filled the role in 2019. Reeves was replaced by Alec Miller in 2020, who was then replaced by Colin McCall in 2021. McCall continued as School Resource Officer until he moved out of state this year, leaving a critical shortage.

Reeves will return as School Resource Officer in early 2024 once the EPD completes training for a detective replacement. Reeves is currently the only detective working for the EPD after the department’s second Detective left this year for another agency.

“Detective Reeves has a passion for this type of role. I know that she had a very strong working relationship with the students and faculty at the Enumclaw School District,” said Sarah Taylor, PIO and Records Specialist for the EPD. “It’s going to be a really positive thing to have her back there for the students and staff alike. She made quite an impact during her time there prior and I think there’s going to be a lot of people happy to have her back.”

Discussions of working with the Enumclaw Police Department to bring an SRO into schools began in 2018 following a school shooting in Parkland, Florida — the same year the nation witnessed a total of 30 school shootings nationwide. In 2022, the number of school shootings in the U.S. leapt to a whopping 46, according to the Washington Post.

In October 2022, an Enumclaw Middle School student was arrested after threatening to carry out a shooting at the school on Halloween. The School Resource Officer at the time, along with an EPD detective, carried out an investigation and found the threats to be credible. The suspect was brought into custody before an incident occurred.

Although this is an extreme example of the important role the SRO position plays at Enumclaw schools, Taylor continued that SRO’s play a critical role in student’s every day lives, particularly acting as a figure they can talk to about issues they may not feel comfortable walking into a police department to address.

The concept of bringing a police officer into schools originated in Michigan during the 1950’s but has raised in popularity since the Columbine shooting in the 1990’s.

School Resource Officers, employed by the Enumclaw Police Department, are required to complete the basic Law Enforcement Academy.