The Mountlake Terrace Police Department is instituting a new program that assigns two officers to each of the six schools in the city for daily visits, relationship building and security patrols. The School Liaison Officer Program will begin later this month.
The program was announced as part of the 2013 First Quarter Police Department Update presented to the Mountlake Terrace City Council on Thursday night.
Each school in Mountlake Terrace — Mountlake Terrace High School, Cedar Way, Terrace Park and Mountlake Terrace elementaries, plus Cedar Park Christian Mountlake Terrace and St. Pius X Catholic — will be assigned a primary officer and a secondary officer from the MLT Police Department. One of the two officers will “make an obvious daily police presence” in their assigned school, said Commander Don Duncan. In addition, the officers will be expected to build relationships with students, parents, staff and administrators in their assigned schools, be a mentoring presence and communication resource for the school, and be part of the security planning and implementation at the school.
“I think it’s imperative, whether we have the funding or not, that we do what’s necessary to build those relationships within our schools and try to maintain a safe learning environment for our kids,” said Duncan.
The new liaison police program replaces the School Resource Officer program that ended at Mountlake Terrace High School years ago when the state cut off funding for it. Utilizing police officers already on duty for the new program creates no additional cost to the city or the school district, police department officials stated. The officers’ daily visits to their assigned school will be added to their regular daily duties.
“This is not a full-time assignment for these officers,” explained Assistant Police Chief Pete Caw. “They still will participate in their regular patrol duties. They’re just dedicating a certain portion of their day to stop by their area school.”
“The way we look at it is that we would like to have our officers out there on the streets running radar and creating a safe environment on the roadways; it’s not too much to expect us to spend a little bit of time in the schools creating a safe environment within those schools,” Duncan added.
Officers will be assigned to schools within the next two weeks and will begin school visitations soon after that in order to get students, parents and school staff “comfortable with seeing a patrol car and an officer on the school grounds,” Duncan stated.
Police Chief Greg Wilson emphasized that the creation of the new liaison program wasn’t a result of any specific threat or incident in any of the six Mountlake Terrace schools. “Our schools are safe,” he said. “One of the main reasons for putting this School Liaison Officer Program in play is just to make (people) comfortable, to give them that sense of safety and security, that we are there for them.”