Gervais School District welcomes new student officer
The Gervais School District and Gervais Police Department welcomed a new face to the community at the May city council meeting, swearing in the department's newest officer Tim West on May 6.
A 20-year veteran of law enforcement, West joins the Gervais department in the role of a Student Success Officer, partnering with the Gervais School District to provide a K-12 liason at the nearby Gervais campus.
"We were excited about him coming to Gervais," Police Chief Mark Chase said. "For me, it's a great honor to have someone of his experience and caliber to join us."
At a time in which nearby school districts in Woodburn and Salem have moved to reduce SSOs or SROs (student resource officers) within their buildings in the past year, Gervais School District is positive about the addition of West and see his presence as a form of community outreach through the Gervais Police Department.
"As we were not only participating with community members and parents, but also staff, consistently the message coming out was they appreciated the sense of safety in our school buildings and the partnership we had already with the Gervais Police Department," GSD Superintendent Dandy Stevens said.
Prior to the SSO contract with the Gervais PD, the school district had paid around $20,000 annually for police services at the school's high, middle and elementary school buildings, most prominently through D.A.R.E. officer Lieutenant Craig Seibel.
"Our police officers really are resources for us," Stevens said. "Last year the Gervais Police Department did a fantastic job with our D.A.R.E. program. There was such a large participation with that. They enjoyed officer Siebel and his presence in the building and we wanted to continue that."
As it turned out, Seibel had a connection with West, and when West's wife was transferred from her job on the coast to the Willamette Valley, it created an opening for West — a certified D.A.R.E. officer and bike patrol officer — to apply for the opening at Gervais.
"Character and fit for what we want to do in Gervias supporting families and helping people be successful. It's about supporting our families and our kids," Chase said. "(West has) received specialized training, which is extremely important in today's society, in how to deal with people with emotional health issues."
Stevens is familiar with the political battle other districts have navigated regarding the presence of police officers in school buildings, and feels that the fit is right for Gervais.
"We know there can be this perception that when you see a uniformed police officer in the building, there can be a level of anxiety, but we haven't experience that here," she said. "I have not received any of those complaints. When we had really specific community engagement, that didn't come up as a concern."
In fact, Stevens sees West and Siebel as another inroad in the school's effort to steer graduating students toward a variety of career opportunities — including law enforcement.
"We have to do everything we can to grow all sorts of industry," Stevens said. "It's not just welders and business graduates, but also public servants, teachers, police officers and fire fighters.
"Having the program like the cadets or explorers really gets kids that exposure and gets them to connect with these people as individuals first, law enforcement or fire fighters secondary."
Gervais School District will pay for 75% of West's contract, amounting to $87,265 annually during the next five years. The remaining 25% will be picked up by the Gervais Police Department in the form of a COPS (Community Oriented Policing Services) grant for the next three years. The final two years will be paid for by the Gervais Police Department, though Chase stated it could pursue another grant at that time to pick up the remaining cost.
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