The city is looking at pulling nine school resource officers or SRO's out of Wichita middle and high schools. The bottom line is Wichita police officers are in high demand right now. The city has grown in size and so the police chief needs more officers to handle the new beats they are adding, one west and one east. That is why the city is looking to pull those officers out of the public schools.
Hadley Middle School principal Fred Lichtenfelt is very proud of his new and improved school. But some of his excitement is overshadowed with disappointment knowing he could be loosing his school resource officer.
Lichtenfelt says, "It gives you peace of mind. But the reason I support having SRO's, was the opportunity for police officers to connect with kids in a very positive manner."
USD 259 Safety Director Galen Davis says, "I don't think there's another police officer in this community that touch as many lives as school resource officers."
Davis is disappointed as well. As the director of safety services for the Wichita school district he knows the impact on students will be tremendous. The officers would not be present to develop relationships and to prevent crimes in and around schools.
A three-year Cops In Schools grant was funding some of the SRO positions. That money has run out and now it is up to City Council members to decide what is more important.
City Council Member Bob Martz says, "We either put ten officers on the streets or put ten officers in our schools. SRO's, that's the choice."
City Council Member Sue Schlapp says, "If we can't afford to hire more police officers, what's the better use? Is the need in the street? It seems that way. Is the want in the classroom? I think we need to take care of needs before the wants."
According to the police chief, they are already short on officers. Funding the additional SRO's will run about a half million dollars. City Council members say beat officers will still visit schools on their beats.