Columbus police school resource officer a first year hit
“That has helped tremendously,” Columbus Middle School Principal Ron Osborne said of having Columbus Police Officer Jacob Ward assigned to the school district as a school resource officer.
Just having someone with a uniform walking the halls makes students aware that Ward is there to help, Osborne said. Ward is not there to scare students, but to help them, he said.
Ward serves as the dedicated school resource officer for Columbus Public Schools. He joined Columbus Police for that position last January.
The resource officer concept was developed in the wake of school shootings when school districts wanted to increase officer presence at schools, Ward said. Through tragedy the resource officer program has come, he said.
Resource officers also bring a lot to the table, he said, whether discipline, deterrence, or being able to teach classes. Ward helps teach parts of a street justice class as his schedule allows.
“It’s a good resource,” Ward said.
Ward said Columbus is small enough that he is able to know kids well enough to be proactive.
His relationship with school staff also helps, Ward said. He is able to keep close tabs on kids who are not in school and to follow up with parents to keep kids going to school.
Columbus Police Chief Bill Pronovost said Ward’s presence has been a huge asset to the department. Pronovost used to be called to the school several times each week, he said.
Pronovost said Ward is not reacting to calls, but is on top of any problems. In the past Pronovost would be called to deal with situations in a reactive way, but now they can deal with them proactively.
“I love having a school resource officer,” said Columbus Elementary Principal Marlene Deis.
Deis said she is able to call Ward to perform welfare checks on students who have been absent or to sit in with her while she is dealing with any major student problems.
The students also seem to like having Ward around, Deis said. He often greets students on the playground or visits in the lunch room as they are eating.
The resource officer program is now in its second year. The program started in Columbus at the suggestion of the school board. The school and the city each pay half the cost of the program.
The biggest obstacle with starting the program was finding the right person - and they did with Ward, Pronovost said.
Ward encourages parents to call or e-mail him with questions or concerns. That is why we are all here - to help kids grow up and be good, productive citizens, he said.
Columbus is the only school district in the county with a dedicated resource officer. The Stillwater County Sheriff’s Office has one deputy who is certified as a resource officer and spends as much time at county schools as his schedule will permit, but he is not tasked with that primary duty because funding could not be secured to pay for the position.
Ward is also involved with Camp POSTCARD. The value-based program is held at Beartooth Mountain Christian Ranch each June and put on by the Volunteers of America Northern Rockies(VOM).
There is a misconception that the camp is for a bunch of problem kids, Ward said, but that is not the case. The kids who are identified for the program have the potential to be leaders at school and in the community. The camp is an opportunity to learn leadership skills and problem solving skills.
Ward is also preparing for the second annual Bike Rodeo. The event will be held on the last day of school.
The city will be licensing bikes at the rodeo. The licensing process includes taking photos of the bikes and attaching an inventory sticker to bikes. The licensing helps police track bikes back to the owner in case of theft.
Columbus Police Department also has a Facebook page that Ward will be updating regularly. The page will include information and resources for parents.