The city of Hallsville and the Hallsville R-IV School District have partnered to restore the position of School Resource Officer to the school district.
The Hallsville R-V School Board approved the contract Wed. Feb.17 during their regularly scheduled meeting and Hallsville’s Board of Aldermen approved it during a special meeting held Feb. 18.
Brandon Billington is the new SRO and his first day was Monday, Feb. 22.
Billington is a 2011 R-IV graduate, familiar with the town and the school, Bryan Schultz, chief of the Hallsville Police Department said. “His
familiarity with the town and the school buildings was one of his many pluses. Additionally, his second career choice and area of study was education, teaching, a good mix for an SRO. Another thing Brandon brings is experience working in the juvenile justice system. He will not have to be trained in juvenile law, as some of the other candidates would have needed.”
Schultz said there were 13 other candidates for the position.
The initial contract is for 14 months.
Billington has worked for HPD for 1.5 years as a reserve and part time officer. Prior to that he worked two years with the Boonville Police Department.
“This is an opportunity to give back to the school and the community that gave so much to me,” Billington, who is third-generation law enforcement, said when asked what the position meant to him. “I look back to when I was in school… The opportunity to be a mentor is so important.”
Billington, whose hobbies include softball and spending time with his two sons and fiancee, said if he had to name one thing about being an SRO that is different from when he walked HHS’ halls it would be the influence of social media.
“Sure we had it then,” he said. “But you had to go home and boot it up on your computer, not get it on your phone anytime and any place. It is a big influence and enables cyber-bullying. It is a lot eaiser to talk trash and hurt feelings on the screen than in reality. It is a problem.”
Hallsville Mayor Logan Carter said he was glad the city could step up and help fill the void left by the Boone County Sheriff’s department having to withdraw its SROs from county schools, such as former R-IV SRO Eli Burckholder, who was admired by students and staff.
The contract between the district and the city, describes five aspects of Billington’s SRO duties, in this order: peace officer, instructor, advocate, investigator and planner.
• Peace officer – The SRO’s primary duty is to deter crime, uphold the law, protect life and property, and encourage safety. The SRO will act as a law enforcement officer when necessary and will report all law enforcement activities to the District and the PD as soon as practical. At the District’s request, the SRO shall take appropriate law enforcement action against intruders and unwanted guests who may appear at the school and related school functions, to the extent that the SRO may do so under the authority of law. Whenever practical, the SRO shall advise the building principal
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• Instructor – The SRO will be available for instructional classes and discussions concerning school safety, emergency preparedness, enforcement of federal and state laws, drug and gang resistance education, community law enforcement and other related topics.
• Advocate: The SRO will strive at all times to build positive relationships with students, families, and staff members. He or she will work within the school community to solve problems, provide crime prevention information, and make referrals to agencies for treatment of mental health concerns, drug and alcohol rehabilitation, and other similar issues. The SRO shall consult with the principal before making such referrals and shall document in writing to the principal all referrals made. The SRO will advocate in support of school policies, procedures, and initiatives
• Investigator – When requested by District administrators, the SRO will lead or participate in investigations of alleged or suspected violations of law or Board of Education policy by employees or students, and will refer incidents to the Chief of Police of the City for investigatory assignment when appropriate. It is not the SRO’s role to enforce disciplinary rules or punish students for misbehavior under the Student Code of Conduct. Except as required by law, the SRO will generally not become involved in situations that can be handled safely and appropriately by District personnel. Should it become necessary to conduct formal police interviews with students, the SRO or assigned investigator shall adhere to Board Policy, PD Policy, Missouri Revised Statutes, and other legal requirements with regard to such interviews. As soon as practical, and to the extent that it would not interfere with an active investigation, the SRO shall, in writing, make the Superintendent aware of any action taken under this subparagraph. All law enforcement records, including body camera footage, if any, are the property of the PD. The PD will, if allowed by law, provide copies of records made pursuant to this subparagraph to the District upon District request.
• Planner – The SRO will ensure that emergency preparedness and response plans are kept up to date regularly. The SRO will educate District staff about changes to such plans and facilitate any necessary training.
Schultz, when asked how he would describe the job to one of Hallsville’s middle school students said this: “Everything, his duties could be everything. The SRO is there to help the school, the students, the teachers in any way he is able to. The SRO is an extension of law enforcement, but much more. He is a mentor for the students, but capable to act as a law enforcement officer if the need occurs.
Schultz stressed that when school is in session, Billington’s primary duty will be SRO. When it is not, he will work as a city patrol officer. “He will be especially valuable to the city during the summer, as an additional patrol officer and as on-call officer when the regular officers are off-duty.”
Another plus for the city, Schultz said, is the HPD stepping in to fill the SRO void will enable it expand its community policing role.