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Liaison officer should bridge student-police connections

Is there such a thing as being too safe, especially in a school?

The city of Marquette, Marquette Area Public Schools and the Kaufman Foundation have teamed up to add a second full-time liaison officer for MAPS.

A Marquette city police detective will handle the more investigative issues that might spring up in the district. The other officer, currently Nate Dawson, will continue handling student education.

The belief is that increased police presence in the schools will help students form positive relationships with law enforcement.

Safety aside, that is an important concept. Some kids might think of the police as an enemy, out in the world only to stop people for speeding tickets and the like.

They might not realize law enforcement can be a source of support.

At Monday’s announcement of the new collaboration, Marquette Police Chief Blake Rieboldt said relationships between police officers and kids are cultivated throughout their school careers, and the relationships the officers build with kids at a young age pays “dividends over that time period.”

We agree. If a student builds a bond with an officer, that student could look at another officer on the street and not have antagonistic feelings, and unfortunately, teens and police sometimes have less-than-desirable interactions.

Also with the new collaboration, having a detective and uniform officer split responsibilities should benefit MAPS as well as the police department since each can focus more on specific duties.

Rieboldt estimated the new position, based on the 180-day school year and including benefits, is estimated to cost $40,000. The city, MAPS and the Kaufman Foundation will work together to offset the cost. Rieboldt stressed a position isn’t being created for the second officer since an officer already employed in the police department will be assigned to the district.

MAPS already has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in safety measures for the district, including door locks, mounted school cameras, bus cameras and other technology upgrades.

As MAPS Superintendent Bill Saunders said on Monday, those upgrades are important, but forming relationships between law enforcement and students — and having a police officer be proactive when issues arise — is immeasurable as well.

We believe those intrinsic benefits will go a long way in serving the community, both in and out of the school district.