PIQUA — The Piqua Police Department recently added a position to their ranks for the sole purpose of providing additional security at Piqua High School.
The Piqua City Commission approved the addition of a threat assessment officer to the police department staff in August. The position is expected to be filled by two part-time, seasonal employees, and it will be funded by Piqua City Schools.
Piqua Chief of Police Bruce Jamison and PCS Superintendent Dwayne Thompson said that they had been working together to come up with a way to provide the high school with additional security since last year — even before the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, in February.
“We don’t want somebody that’s going to stand in one stationary place. We don’t want somebody in an office,” Thompson said. “We physically want the person moving and truly just offering a security scenario. That’s the essential part. They’re going to be present. They’re going to be moving around and watching for secure issues.”
“It is a sworn police officer position,” Jamison said. “So they will be armed. They will have arrest authority.”
This position will be different than a school resource officer (SRO) position, as the threat assessment officers’ main job will be providing day-to-day security. PCS does not have an SRO, but the Piqua Police Department has four PROTECT officers who will continue investigating other threats and issues with students during the school year.
The new threat assessment officers will be mainly stationed at the high school, while the PROTECT officers will be working with the intermediate and primary schools.
Thompson said that while some school districts offer their own security officers, they were drawn to the idea of having a threat assessment officer from the Piqua Police Department in Piqua schools since they already work well with the department.
“When we have a situation, as soon as our local law enforcement gets there, they can take charge of the situation at hand because they’re fully trained at that,” Thompson said. “They have more of a command center that can communicate to all of the necessary agents that are respond to that situation. That frees me up to work with students and staff and to think of things I can assist him with.”
Jamison added that the police department has also been trying to recruit retired police officers for the position.
“We like the idea of the wisdom and experience that an officer’s going to bring,” Jamison said, adding that with experience comes the “maturity of being able to control things in a very calm but assertive manner that every officer has to learn in the course of their career.”
Piqua City Schools will be paying the salaries of these part-time employees, and the estimated annual cost is expected to be $55,000. Thompson said that they were able to find the funding for two part-time threat assessment officers through retirements in the school system.
Jamison said that the department and the police officers’ union also support this new position. He said that if there is ever a need for other officers to cover for the threat assessment officer – whether due to turnover or sick days – they agreed to work for lower wages to fill in.
“Our officers want to see this succeed to the point that we wrote an MOU (memorandum of understanding) with the union where they’ve said they’re willing to work this at a much lower wage just to make sure the schools are protected to this level,” Jamison said. “And I’m just really proud of the union and the (officers) for doing that.”
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