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Schools look for police liaison options

December 07, 2011 - By Joe St. Henry

Review Editor

Lake Orion school administrators want a more cost-effective option for protecting their students.

They let this sentiment be known loud and clear at Monday's Orion Township Board of Trustees meeting.

It appears they are willing to break the district's long-standing relationship with the Oakland County Sheriff's Department that has provided a police liaison to achieve this goal.

The school officials went before the Township Board on Dec. 5, requesting it agree to transfer limited arresting authority to officers of the Lake Orion Police Department in school district buildings and grounds, as well as in district vehicles and its events.

If the board agrees to do so, then Lake Orion Community Schools will immediately begin negotiations with the LOPD to secure the presence of its officers at the high school and other district buildings, as needed.

A board motion was carried 5-1 to have the township's attorney draft an agreement under the Urban Cooperation Act of 1967 that outlines the provisions surrounding the township granting of such authority to the LOPD.

The Oakland County Sheriff police liaison position currently is funded jointly by Lake Orion Community Schools and Orion Township. The budget for the officer is scheduled to run out January 1, 2012.

"We cannot afford to pay the $60,000 to continue the (Oakland County) police presence at the high school through the end of the (school) year," said Heidi Kast, the district's assistant superintendent of curriculum, instruction and assessment. "We must be creative and resourceful, and deserve the right to negotiate with other entities to secure a reduced price for this service."

When asked by Orion Township Clerk Penny Shults if the school district had any idea what it may cost to have LOPD provide a police presence at its schools, Kast said such detailed discussions with LOPD officials had not yet taken place.

In November, representatives from the schools, sheriff's department, LOPD, township and county met and agreed to try and find a quick solution to the funding challenge resulting from school district and township budget constraints.

According to Kast and Lt. Bruce Naile, commander of the Orion Township substation, negotiations between Oakland County and the school district continue.

But, fearing nothing will materialize before the end of the year, Kast said the district decided to move aggressively toward exploring additional options.

"Our goal is to work with both the Lake Orion Police and Oakland County Sheriffs to provide programming and additional security resources to the district," she said.

Oakland County Undersheriff Mike McCabe said he has held discussions with school and township officials and that it was his understanding a short-term solution until June was close, and then a workgroup would be formed to address the long-term needs of the schools.

"We asked them want they want, for we can certainly provide reserve or part-time officers if that makes most sense," he said. "We're more than happy to work with the schools and LOPD to find a resolution to the situation."

Chris Bell, associate principal at Lake Orion High School, welcomes the opportunity to work with both law enforcement agencies.

"When I heard about the opportunity to possibly have the village police department available to diversify and expand our efforts, I thought it was a great idea," Bell told the board.

told the board.

Shults asked Naile how the sheriff's department and LOPD would work together at the high school to address situations needing police support. He was not sure.

"I have no idea how this would be set up or work," Naile said. "It's too early to tell."

Township Supervisor JoAnn Van Tassel said while she was Lake Orion Village Manager in the past, the LOPD and sheriffs often worked together.

"The Oakland County sheriffs have authority throughout the county," she said. "If this is put in place, the Lake Orion Police officers would be in the school building and, depending on the situation, I think the county sheriffs would be sent to the scene."

Oakview Middle School is located in Oakland Township. School administrators said if Orion Township agrees to grant Lake Orion officers the necessary authority, they will attempt to secure the same agreement with Oakland Township next.

The board will be discussing the school district's request at its next budget workshop meeting on Thursday, Dec. 8. The final 2011 board meeting is on Dec. 19.

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