News From Terre Haute, Indiana

December 20, 2012

Sheriff wants additional deputies for school patrol

Staff Report
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Vigo County Sheriff Greg Ewing is developing a proposal to add three full-time deputies to post in county middle and elementary schools on a permanent basis, according to a news release issued Thursday.

Ewing advised his administrative staff to prepare an operational and financial outline to be presented to the Vigo County Council in January.

If funded, full-time deputies would be assigned to the Otter Creek, Honey Creek and West Vigo middle school districts, Ewing said, to provide security to those middle schools and the seven elementary schools that feed them.

The officers would provide foot patrol, plus investigate suspicious and criminal activities committed on school grounds. The officer would also meet daily with school principals and staff to ensure the safest conditions for school children.

Placing deputies in the county middle and elementary schools is not a new proposal. A program that had been in place for many years lost its grant funding approximately two years ago. At that time an officer assigned to each county middle school made continuous rounds between the middle schools and their feeder elementary schools.

The Terre Haute Police Department already has officers assigned full-time to all of the city middle schools. Those officers not only patrol their assigned middle school, but make rounds daily to the city elementary schools.

Additionally the Terre Haute Police Department funds full-time liaison officers stationed at Terre Haute North and Terre Haute South high schools. West Vigo High School has a full-time deputy funded by the school corporation The school corporation also funds the majority of a full-time county detective’s salary and maintains that detective’s county-owned vehicle, according to the news release.

No funding now exists to provide full-time officers to the county middle and elementary schools, the release said.

Ewing said he believes rural schools could be more vulnerable than inner-city schools, because of slower emergency response times because of square miles covered and travel time.

The sheriff said in the news release that the only way to provide adequate safety to the county middle and elementary schools is to put an officer there on a full-time basis.

In the meantime, Ewing has directed road deputies to provide foot patrol for the county middle and elementary schools during their normal tour of duty. But there will be days when schools may not receive foot patrol by officers because of call volume and necessary responses to other emergencies.

The three full-time deputies Ewing wants also could cover each summer’s Junior Police Academy in addition to providing security to the schools during the school year.