Volunteers hope to bridge school liaison gap in Barry Co.
Updated: Tuesday, April 9 2013, 11:09 PM EDT
HASTINGS, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - After budget cuts forced the Barry County Sheriff's Office to cut back on its school liaison program, volunteers are bridging the school security gap.
One superintendent, though, is saying, not so fast.
On Thursday, Barry County Sheriff Dar Leaf and Superintendent Tom Enslen of the Thornapple-Kellogg School District are getting together.
Enslen says he needs answers before letting uniformed volunteers patrol the hallways.
"What are we doing to check the backgrounds for these folks who are volunteering," Enslen asked. "What kind of training measures are in place?"
Enslen also wants to know how often they'll be on campus, and what kinds of connections they hope to make with students.
Sheriff Dar Leaf says these so-called posse members should deter crime and establish positive connections.
"It could be a speeding ticket, could be an arrest, most of the time it's negative, so this is an opportunity for some of these kids first contact with law enforcement is positive," Sherrif Leaf said.
The volunteers would supplement the school liaison program, which started in the nineties in Barry County with a federal grant.
Funding dried up long ago, and there's now just one liaison serving all participating Barry County districts.
Enslen is hesitant to trust uniformed volunteers with weapons the way he would trust a sworn police officer, though.
He says he was surprised when the volunteers unexpectedly showed up at Thornapple-Kellogg schools several weeks ago, and that for now, the program is on hold.
Leaf says volunteers undergo strict background checks and firearms proficiency and defensive tactics training.
He adds that those facts are things he plans to share with Enslen at their meeting on Thursday.