A school resource officer will begin working in elementary schools in Aberdeen when the new year starts in September.
The budget approved by the Aberdeen City Council for Fiscal Year 2020, which begins July 1, includes about $100,000 for Aberdeen Police Department to hire a third school resource officer who will be deployed to the city’s three elementary schools — Bakerfield, Hall’s Cross Roads and George D. Lisby at Hillsdale.
“This is another opportunity for us to not only to provide an extra element of security in schools, it’s another bridge for contact and connectivity with our youth in a positive way,” Aberdeen Police Lt. Will Reiber said.
Officer Michael Palmer will be the new SRO, going into the schools the same time students return to start the 2019-2020 school year, Reiber said.
SROs have been in schools in Harford County in some form for 20 years, dating to 1998 when the first six were deployed by the Harford County Sheriff’s Office. They have been added over the years to more high schools and more recently to every middle school in the county.
Only Havre de Grace has an SRO in each of its schools — Havre de Grace Middle and High, Havre de Grace Elementary and Meadowvale Elementary.
Aberdeen will be the second agency in Harford to have an SRO dedicated strictly to elementary schools.
Aberdeen Councilwoman Sandra Landbeck lobbied for the third position.
“It’s just something I truly feel we need,” Landbeck said. “It’s not that I feel there’s a threat or that I am concerned for the safety of our students. What concerns me is our students growing up with a really good relationship with the police.”
Landbeck’s husband and his entire family, as well as her own, have been connected with law enforcement — “it’s in my blood,” she said.
In some places, police are looked at as adversarial rather than as a benefit, she said.
She pointed to the relationship the SRO at Aberdeen Middle School — Officer Jason Neidig — has established with the students there.
“I think it needs to spread through all our schools,” Landbeck said.
Officer Karen Kerins is the SRO at Aberdeen High.
Aberdeen Police Chief Henry Trabert has been active in trying to establish community policing programs, and this is one more method, she said.
“I feel like our city has an incredible relationship. I’m sure some have prejudice with police, but by and large Aberdeen loves their police force,” Landbeck said. “I want that to continue and that needs to start with understanding of what police can do for you.”
Aberdeen SROs have had very positive interactions with students.
“This will continue in that spirit,” Reiber said. “It gives our police department reach with kids as they come into the school system and moving forward.”