Police set to hire officer to patrol Portage schools

November 2, 2018

The Portage Police Department is just days away from hiring an officer whose beat will be the local schools.

Police Chief Ken Manthey said three current Portage police officers are the final candidates for the post of school resource officer — a newly created position for an officer dedicated to, and stationed in, the schools that lie within the Portage city limits.

All three finalists were interviewed one at a time Thursday by two separate panels of interviewers.

One of the panels included Portage Police Department command staff and two school resource officers who work in other Wisconsin communities.

Although the officer will be a city employee, the finalists also met with a panel of Portage Community School District officials, including Portage High School Principal Robin Kvalo and Peter Hibner, the assistant district administrator and director of business operations.

According to Manthey, the hiring decision is expected to be made by the end of next week.

Both the Portage Common Council and the Portage Community School Board have approved a joint agreement that calls for the officer to start work Jan. 1, and remain employed as the school resource officer until August 2021, with the possibility of extending the agreement. The agreement is set up to renew automatically for one year, unless either the city or the school district decides to end the arrangement with 180 days advance notice.

Key components of the agreement include:

The school district will pay two-thirds of the cost for the officer, including wages and benefits, equipment and the annual squad car replacement allocation. The city will pay the remaining one-third of the costs, estimated at $110,505.The officer will be assigned to the Portage Community School District, and will have office space in at least one school district building. Supervision of the officer, including scheduling, will be the Portage Police Department’s responsibility.The school resource officer primarily will be assigned to the schools during about 180 days of the school year, and would be expected to be present at major school events, such as home football games or dances.The officer may be called on to enforce the law in the school, including issuing juvenile citations for legal infractions. However, the officer will not be expected to intervene in a situation in which school rules were violated.There will be an educational component to the officer’s duties, including topics such as safety and drug awareness. However, the officer will not supersede the role of the school district’s guidance counselors.

Meanwhile, Manthey said, the police department is now interviewing for officers to replace whichever officer is chosen as the school resource officer.