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Aberdeen city leaders, residents push to improve student safety, cite need for more resource officers

Aberdeen chief says his department, sheriff don't have money for SRO at Aberdeen Middle

Aberdeen city leaders say they are working to find the money to hire a school resource officer for Aberdeen Middle School, following recent incidents in which police had to respond to the school.

Police investigated a claim of a potential shooting at the middle school in late September, a rumor of a fight between two eighth-graders, one of whom was reported to have mentioned using a firearm. The potential for a shooting was unfounded, police later reported.

The middle school, along with Aberdeen High School, also were locked down Dec. 1 after police received reports there would be a large fight involving weapons among students during dismissal. The rumors were unfounded again, but police used dogs from the city and Aberdeen Proving Ground to search the schools during the lockdown.

"I think we really need to see how we can get a police officer in Aberdeen Middle School," City Councilman Tim Lindecamp said during the council's most recent meeting on Dec. 21.

Lindecamp, the athletic director at Aberdeen High School, said he has seen police responding to the schools and encouraged police department leaders to place a school resource officer on the middle school campus.

Aberdeen Police Department has an SRO at the high school, and the Harford County Sheriff's Office provides an officer for the Center for Educational Opportunity on the AHS campus.

Aberdeen Police Chief Henry Trabert said he has discussed the issue with the Sheriff's Office in recent years, and the sheriff agreed to fund an officer for the CEO "until we had manpower to fill that position."

"We've never had manpower to fill that position," Trabert said of the CEO slot. "We [also] don't have one for the middle school, and the sheriff doesn't either."

The chief said he is considering asking Harford County Public Schools for funding.

"You're right, though, there is a need for an SRO in that school," Trabert told Lindecamp. "The school does have some issues that I think an SRO would be able to take care of."

Mayor Patrick McGrady said he and City Manager Doug Miller recently met with Billy Boniface, director of administration for Harford County, County Council President Richard Slutzky and Aberdeen area County Councilman Patrick Vincenti to discuss projects in which the city and county have a shared interest, including school resource officers.

McGrady said he learned from the county that it costs about $90,000 for one school resource officer position, and the Sheriff's Office would "love to be able" to fund SROs at every school in the county.

"Until they get that funding, it doesn't look like something they're going to be able to do," the mayor said.

McGrady encouraged council members to lobby the school system, Board of Education and the sheriff for SRO funding "if it's something the council feels is necessary for the smooth operation of the middle-school-to-high-school transition."

According to Harford County Public Schools Manager of Communications Jillian Lader, school resource officer positions are funded through the Sheriff's Office or municipal agencies.

"HCPS can request an SRO, but the decision to fund an SRO request from the school system rests with the Harford County Sheriff's Office and municipal police department as to whether they elect to fund an SRO position or program," Lader explained in an email.

Concerns about security at his city's schools prompted former Havre de Grace Mayor Wayne Dougherty, who left office in May, to provide additional funds to post a resource officer at Havre de Grace High, Havre de Grace Middle, Havre de Grace Elementary and Meadowvale Elementary, a program that continues, according to Havre de Grace Police Department spokesperson Officer Jeff Gilpin.

Gilpin said city police officers are assigned to each of the four schools and also run summer safety programs for the kids.

Bel Air Police Chief Charles Moore said his department has one school resource officer serving eight schools in town, public and private.

BAPD Officer Rick Krause visits Bel Air High School, Bel Air Middle School, Bel Air Elementary, Homestead-Wakefield Elementary, John Carroll School, St. Margaret School and the Tiny Tot School, a preschool program offered by the Bel Air United Methodist Church.

Moore said Krause is also in charge of the department's youth program, Explorer Post 9010.

"He's out there, he really is," Moore said. "We're blessed to have him."

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