Kohler Village Board approves hiring of community resource officer

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The Village of Kohler Board of Trustees approved the hiring of an additional police officer who will serve as a full-time community resource officer at the school and for the Village. The new position will be co-funded by the Village of Kohler and the Kohler School District, and will allow the school to have a full-time armed officer on staff during the school year.

The proposal came about after a number of parents of Kohler students expressed concerns to school administration regarding school safety after recent school shootings around the country. Some of the parents suggested that the school hire an armed private security officer. The school then approached the Kohler Police Department to discuss options.

According to a proposal submitted by Kohler Police Chief William Rutten to the Village Board at its April 16 meeting, the new community resource officer would handle all school-related calls such as thefts, disorderly conducts, accidents, suspicious circumstances, etc. He/she would coordinate K-9 searches and conduct the in-school classes and safety presentations that are currently conducted at the school by law enforcement officers, and he/she would be in charge of training new crossing guards and attend required meetings on school-related issues.

The new officer would be assigned to work in the school for 180 instructional days, and during non-school hours would be available for the Village library and Kohler Kare after-school daycare program, as well as be present at special events in the Village. During holidays and summer break, the officer would be added to the police department’s regular patrol schedule.

Currently, the Kohler School District does not have a full-time school resource officer. The Kohler Police Department has been sending officers to the school once a week, or for “directed patrols” during the school day, and to be present at special events. The new full-time officer would have his own private office at the school.

The Kohler Police Department posted the employment position right after receiving approval from the Village Board, with applications being accepted until 4:00 p.m. on May 4, 2018. The Kohler School District has agreed to pay 50 percent of the cost of the officer’s salary and benefits.

In February 2018 the Wisconsin State Assembly proposed a bill that would offer grant money to be used for armed security guards in schools. Last reports were that the bill was headed for the state senate, but in March, the state senate announced that it had passed Governor Scott Walker’s 2018 School Safety Initiative that makes $100 million in grants available to all public and private schools in the state, to be used for security improvements of school buildings and staff training. According to eligibility requirements posted on the Wisconsin Department of Justice website, the grant will not pay for the salaries of school resource officers or security guards, nor will it pay for weapons, body armor or vehicles.

Attorney General Brad Schimel said he wants to give a share of new safety grant money to every school that applies, and he estimated each school would receive about $32,000.

The Kohler Police Department’s proposal to the Village estimated that the Village’s share of payment toward the new officer’s wages and benefits will be about $22,000-$28,000. The money would come from $35,000 that has already been set aside in the Village budget for hiring an additional officer, should one be needed, for the new Aurora medical facility that will be constructed on land owned by Kohler Co.

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