Car will benefit schools, Lawrence Co. law office

Published 5:00 am Thursday, June 13, 2002

The Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office school resource officer hasnew wheels courtesy of the school district and federalgovernment.

School Resource Officer Heather Barton began touring campusesthis week in a new 1999 Crown Victoria purchased by the LawrenceCounty School District through the federal Cops In School Program.The car was purchased a few weeks ago, but had been in the shopgetting painted with the sheriff’s office colors and logos.

“The car belongs to the school district and the officer is onthe (district) staff, but she is also a (fully-empowered) deputy,”said Superintendent John Bull.

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The car will be used to handle sheriff’s office business whennot being used in its primary role, Barton said.

“They allow us to use it both for the schools and county,” shesaid. “During the school year, they pay for all the gas and we dothe upkeep. When school is not in session, we cover all thecosts.”

The car will significantly improve her job performance, Bartonsaid. As the school resource officer, Barton tries to travel to allof the district’s six schools each day. At the schools, she makes”walk-throughs”, drug and alcohol prevention presentations andserves as the county’s law enforcement liaison.

“Just having a presence there seems to do a lot,” Bartonsaid.

Bull agreed and added that through this program students wereable to see law enforcement officers as a positive influence andnot someone to be feared.

“It helps to have that positive relationship with the studentbecause if something does happen they feel better about sharingit,” he said. “They’re not afraid to tell the officer what theyknow.”

Bull said the car will prove especially useful in cases where astudent is suspended during the school day and the faculty isunable to reach the parents. In the past, these students would ridethe bus home.

“That’s when we have the most trouble with them,” Bull said.”They’re already suspended, so they figure what more can wedo?”

Now the school resource officer will be taking those studentshome, he said.

In the role of law enforcement liaison, Bull said it isbeneficial to the district to have an officer in place at theschools full-time “to have someone who the administration, staffand students are all familiar with.”

The car will also help the sheriff’s office, Barton said. Theoffice is currently two cars short after an accident a few monthsago and a May shooting incident that saw the sheriff’s car receiveautomatic weapons fire. The addition of this car will help offsetthat loss.