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Morton County Sheriff's Department to boost presence in schools

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Schools in Morton County will have an increased law enforcement presence starting Monday as the Morton County Sheriff’s Department and North Dakota Highway Patrol provide additional security details.

An increase in juvenile crimes and shootings taking place on school campuses across the United States was the impetus to add more patrols in Morton County schools, said Morton County Sheriff Kyle Kirchmeier.

The North Dakota Department of Public Instruction and the state Highway Patrol recently announced a proposal to station more troopers at some schools across North Dakota. The details of the proposal are still being determined.

Kirchmeier said the idea is for deputies and troopers to walk through the schools to get familiar with teachers, build a relationship with students and become familiar with the full layout of the schools. Deputies also will get keys for the schools so they could access the buildings, if needed, Kirchmeier said.

“We’re hoping this can all be for planning and an incident does not occur,” he said.

The sheriff's department and Highway Patrol officers will be working at random times at the schools, including Flasher, Glen Ullin, Hebron, St. Anthony and both New Salem schools.

Officers will familiarize themselves with students, staff and parents while school is in session or for school-sanctioned events.

John Barry, the superintendent of Glen Ullin Public School, said he believes having officers at the school will make a difference.

"I think it’s a good idea," said Barry, whose district includes one K-12 school building with about 145 students.

The school does not have a school resource officer, and distance does play a factor in regards to officer involvement at the school, Barry said. Glen Ullin is about a 50-minute drive from Mandan.

With the additional officers, the school also can use them as a resource or for their expertise on student safety issues.

Barry said he does not have any safety concerns for his school. Schools unlike his have access to resources, such as SROs, and Barry said he welcomes the additional presence at his school

"I don’t feel immune from violence, but we’ve taken precautions through revisiting our crisis plan and those kinds of things," he said. "We feel good about where we’re at as school, (but) we’re never 100 percent safe or feel 100 percent safe."

Kirchmeier said the sheriff’s department doesn’t have the manpower to provide full-time school resource officers to the schools, but he said it won’t affect the department’s budget to add the security patrols. The Morton County Sheriff’s Department has 36 deputies.

“We’re out there in the cities, we patrol the rural communities anyway,” Kirchmeier said. “We’ll just make sure that we put an added emphasis on that to our patrolling.”

(Reach Blair Emerson at 701-250-8251 or Blair.Emerson@bismarcktribune.com)

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