BY LEANN DILBECK –
The Mena School District and the Mena City Council have approved the addition of a full-time armed “school resource officer.” Mena Superintendent Benny Weston has been working with Chief of Police Jimmy Doster regarding the issue and the two addressed the Police Committee of the Mena City Council and the Committee made the recommendation to the full Council in a special called session on Monday, August 26.
Currently, the district employs a Polk County Sheriff’s Deputy in a similar role but at the District’s A.L.E. (Alternative Learning Environment). Weston was proposing the addition of a full-time officer to serve as a “school resource officer” to cover all campuses and spoke of the success he had seen with a similar program when he was still in Montgomery County, even before school shootings had began dominating national news. Officer Joe Quinn, who now serves on the Mena Police Department, had actually been instrumental in establishing the program in Montgomery County and is certified with all of the specialized training for the position.
Weston told the Council, “I can assure you that a portion of your juvenile citations and problems that you are currently having are going to go down with the implementation of this program in our schools.” He explained that the school resource officer becomes a “preventive officer,” saying he is very visible in the halls and at functions on campus, all while building relationships with the students.
Weston commended the City and Doster and their assistance to the District, helping with traffic control, etc. and added, “Educators educate and your police do what they do best…protect.”
The position will be funded by Mena School District but the officer will remain a City employee. He will work with the officer for A.L.E. but will also be visible in other areas of the high school campus as well as rotate through the other three campuses of the District.
“Students and teachers feel safe…and parents appreciate it, too,” said Weston when speaking of the many benefits that the Mt. Ida District experienced with the program.
The Council approved the recommendation and for Quinn to be assigned to the role. The position will be 12-months. The City will now advertise for an opening to replace Quinn’s position on the force.
Weston explained that even when school is not in session, Quinn will be responsible and is also assisting with “Crisis Plans” district-wide and for each individual campus.
A copy of the school resource officer policy and procedures is available at the Superintendent’s Office.