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Deputies begin increased school patrols

Clark County plan arose after Newtown shooting spree.

The Clark County Sheriff’s Office has been given an almost $200,000 boost to increase patrols and security in area schools through a new educational support officers program.

Two senior officers, Deputy Chad Eubanks and Deputy Scott Cultice, have received training as educational support officers and will spend their time solely patrolling area schools and working with faculty to improve security. The program was developed after rising concerns about school safety after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn.

“I (asked) if there was a way … we could move some deputies around to the schools to give more visibility, more security, more safety,” said Clark County Commissioner Richard Lohnes, who helped spearhead the program. “Of course, all I had to do was mention that and (the sheriff’s office) said we’ll get back to you with a plan.”

Funding was allocated from the general fund, totaling $198,000, to purchase two new vehicles and equipment, and to provide the training and salaries for the two deputies. The jobs will be in addition to the four to seven deputies already patrolling the streets daily, allowing the road patrol to focus their resources elsewhere, said Sheriff Gene Kelly.

Eubanks has been with the sheriff’s office for 17 years and said schools already see their fair share of issues, from lockdowns to threats and drug problems. Having educational support officers dedicated to working at the schools will help combat those problems.

“I think just the visibility will help,” he said.

Both Cultice and Eubanks have received school safety and security training and know how to recognize weaknesses in a security system. They’ll patrol schools at random, working with the department’s new K-9 officer to increase drug searches.

Northeastern Local Schools has never had an officer working in the schools regularly. Having someone who will know their buildings and staff is a positive, said Lou Kramer, district superintendent.

“They will be patrolling a large area and a number of schools, but I think … they’re going to be able to develop those relationships, understand the routine of the school district and understand and recognize things that may be out of place,” he said. “From our perspective, this is wonderful.”

With seven districts and thousands of students in the county, Kelly said he knows the new officers aren’t the “be all, end all” to security problems at schools but will make a difference when seconds count.

“When these situations occur, the research tells us you have about three minutes, and so it’s important to have armed law enforcement, trained people who can quickly respond,” he said.

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