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June 5, 2020

5/22/2020 11:07:00 AM
Chisago Lakes School District and police commission may renegotiate SRO terms

The Chisago Lakes School District Superintendent brought forward two requests to the Lakes Area Police Commission to consider last week aimed at resulting in school district budget reductions.

One item would open the School Resource Officer contracts for re-negotiation and the other request was for a rebate back to the school for not utilizing officer hours in the final two to three months of this Covid-19 distance learning school year.

Chisago Lakes has had a stellar relationship with Lakes Area Police, Superintendent Dean Jennissen stressed, adding that these are solely “allocation of resource” issues.  

There is a high level of satisfaction with the Lakes Area Police officers, he stated.  They are on campuses to enforce the law certainly, but also to instruct DARE students, avert misbehavior, lend support to school administration and respond if there’s a public safety concern.  A rapport gets built between the representatives of local police and students that helps the community overall, through the SRO presence.

Chisago Lakes has paid for 10 months of the SRO (School Resource  Officers) 12 month salaries since resource officers started serving in schools in 1996.  

The request is to make that nine months, or even more desired-- make it a daily or hourly contract.  Jennissen explained that the officers’ contract is on a calendar year. The students’ mandated presence in a school year in Minnesota is 170 days-- which isn’t equal to 10 months.  Daily or hourly payment will allow for deductions for holiday breaks and even make adjustments easier in an extreme circumstance like the coronavirus closing school buildings.

Jennissen said the Lakes Area Police Department has seen a benefit in having the SROs available to patrol and fill gaps in work schedules when they normally would be applying those hours in school.

Commission member Jeremy Dresel, Chisago City Council, suggested the 10 months was used to “keep things simple.”  Negotiators years ago realized that on top of the days that school is in session there’s a couple days to set-up and take down operations in the school SRO offices; there are proms, homecoming and other special events monitored by the SROs plus the Lakes Area Officers are expected to attend trainings to gain proficiency in unique school-based situations and juvenile law and student privacy, etc.  Dresel guessed the extra month was used to cover all the extras and keep bookkeeping to a minimum.

Supt. Jennissen said he plans to draft a proposal along with advice from staff such as High School Principal Dave Ertl,  and hopes to have a written contract revision to be reviewed by the police commission by about July.  

All the commission members supported continuing to take a look at the 10 month contract provision, but there was no action taken.  

The same outcome resulted on Jennissen’s suggestion the Lakes Area department return some of Chisago Lakes’ contribution for this school year, seeing as no school was in session from approximately mid-March.

The budget hit could be about $50,000 if LAPD opts to rebate in full.  

The LAPD doesn’t build in budget contingency, Chief Bill Schlumbohm explained.  The budget is tightly balanced-- and to cover this request some purchases of equipment might have to be delayed or the salary line item may need to be cut.

Commission member and Lindstrom Mayor Kevin Stenson, said the schools have been “good working partners” and he wants to keep it that way.  Consensus was commission members  support talks continue on the rebate possibility and adjusting the 10 month district share of costs, and that these SRO related issues will be addressed and a formal proposal come to the commission for the July Police Commission meeting. (The commission meets every other month.)

In regular activity reports the commission learned calls for service in the Lakes Area Police Dept. territory are down 15 percent (versus 2019) since the statewide emergency declaration and stay at home/ non-essential closures went into effect.  Chief Schlumbohm said mostly this reflects no school based incidents and few commercial business-related calls.  He noted that calls for domestic disturbances  and assault incidents appear to be “holding steady” from a year ago numbers, however.

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