Clear eyes, full stomachs, can’t lose

A pair of students enjoy breakfast before class in September 2018 at Armand Larive Middle School in Hermiston. The school, along with Sandstone Middle School, will soon have a dedicated school resource officer roaming the halls of the schools next year.

HERMISTON — A new face will be roaming the halls of Hermiston’s two middle schools next year.

The Hermiston Police Department will soon hire a third school resource officer to work at Sandstone and Armand Larive middle schools. Police Chief Jason Edmiston said that the existing officers are overloaded due to the district’s population, and adding another will allow them to focus more closely on students who are at a “pivotal age.”

”Our goal is to make sure schools remain a safe environment for kids to learn,” he said. “We’re extremely happy to be in the schools. The funding component of it makes it compelling for us.”

Officer Betty Nava has worked in Hermiston’s elementary schools since 2016, and Officer Chris McMahon has worked in Hermiston’s secondary schools since 2017. He will narrow his focus to just Hermiston High School next year.

The district contracts with the city, and pays 75% of the total cost to employ school resource officers, a figure that totals between about $198,300 and $204,100 for both officers this budget year.

‘We’ve known we’ve needed another resource officer for a long time. I’m looking forward to budgeting a new officer in,” said Hermiston Finance Director Mark Krawczyk.

Edmiston said the officers work full time in the schools, and take more time off during the summer months, but will still take calls and assist with cases.

“We try to manage best as possible the work they do during the summertime,” Edmiston said. “If they do patrol, we really consider what they are sent out to.”

Hermiston School District has had at least one school resource officer since the mid-1990s, Edmiston said, but having three resource officers is a new concept.

According to the police department’s annual report, Nava interacts with parents and teachers, handles traffic complaints, works with the principals and assists with truancy issues. Edmiston said she frequently makes herself present in the cafeteria during lunch time.

“When we start at the elementary, it’s a good way for our young kids to interact with a police officer and understand what they do,” said Hermiston School District Superintendent Tricia Mooney.

McMahon is assigned to all secondary schools, but Edmiston said he spends most of his time at the high school.

“The roles really are different in the sense that the ages of the kids are different,” Edmiston said. “We try to be proactive at the high school, but a lot of times his role is reactive.”

At a high school level, McMahon also enforces truancy laws, teaches on safety topics and handles the criminal side of juvenile activity.

“Ultimately, the building administrator can handle school district issues, and the school resource officer can deal with the legal side of that,” Mooney said.

The officers might be found at school-based events, like football games at Kennison Field.

The police department has yet to hire the new resource officer, but Edmiston said the agency will look for and likely fill the position with someone already working at the department, a move that would result in the hire of a new police officer.

“I think career growth within our department is important. We do have people in the house that myself and my supervisors believe can fill the position,” he said.

This summer, all three officers and their supervisor, administrative Cpt. Travis Eynon, will attend the National Association of School Resource Officers conference in Dallas, Texas.

The association describes the role of a school resource officer as a “triad” — an educator, an informal counselor and a law enforcement officer.

Stanfield and Echo school districts share a community resource officer. Milton-Freewater School District gained a resource officer at the beginning of this school year, and Pendleton currently has one as well.

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