Central Bucks School District, Warrington Police partner to reinstate school resource officer

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A Warrington police officer will return to regularly patrol the halls of Central Bucks High School South and other district schools for the first time in four years starting in the fall.

In a news release Wednesday the Warrington Board of Supervisors and the school district announced they were partnering to reinstate the school resource officer program.

Warrington police officer Robert Bell will be assigned to the SRO role, Police Chief Daniel Friel said. Bell previously served as the SRO at Central Bucks from 2014 to 2018. The district first placed a police officer at its South high school in 2005, but the program was cut four years later due to a lack of funding.

The estimated $180,000 annual cost for the position will be split between the school district and the township with the district picking up 75% of the cost, Warrington Township Manager Barry Luber said. Warrington pulled its SRO out of the district in 2018 to cover manpower issues within the police department, Luber added.

“The reestablishment of this program has been a high priority for some time,” Warrington Supervisors Chairman Fred Gaines said in the release announcing the decision.

Officer Bell will work with the administration and school staff to develop actions and procedures to create a safer school environment and act as a mentor to students. The officer will be primarily located at the South high school but will frequent other district schools.

Bell will have authority to make arrests and respond to calls and document incidents that occur within the school as well as non-law enforcement responsibilities such as emergency management planning and educational programming.

Central Bucks School District President Dana Hunter sees “enormous potential” in the return of the program.

“While we know the school resource officer will help our students, faculty and staff feel safer, officer Bell’s presence as another trusted adult in the school environment increases the opportunities for our students to build a rapport with an adult who cares about their personal success and well-being.”

The decision to reinstate the SRO comes as school safety remains a top focus for communities following 93 school shootings in the U.S. in 2022, up from 11 a decade ago, according to a new federal report on school crime and safety. Roughly 50% of shootings last year— 43 of the 93 — resulted in deaths, according to the report.

Last November, Warrington police arrested a male juvenile in connection with threats at South high school involving an explosive device and a weapon. The threats were unfounded but not before it sent the district into lockdown and police swept the campus for devices.

Quakertown Community, Pennsbury, Neshaminy Council Rock, and Bensalem have school resource officers . Morrisville replaced its SRO with a private security guard in 2019.

A school resource officer is a sworn law-enforcement officer working in a school setting - typically middle or high school – on a full or part time basis. An estimated 91% of SROs are armed and most carry restraints such as handcuffs, according to federal data.

There is no reliable data on the number of SROs nationwide. Federal data estimate that in the 2015-16 school year, there were 52,000 full or part-time SROs in schools at least once a week, plus another 15,500 sworn law enforcement officers in schools who were not SROs.

As of the 2017-2018 school year, available federal data showed that roughly 45% of U.S. schools had an SRO in place at least once a week, up from 32% of schools in the 2005-06 school year.

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This article originally appeared on Bucks County Courier Times: CBSD. Warrington partner to bring back school resource officer