Police officer necessary in schools, SeaTac chief says

Hotel committee declines to fund symphony that does not put 'heads in beds'

Because times have changed from what many adults remember about their school experience, SeaTac Police Chief Jim Graddon told SeaTac lawmakers Oct. 9, a full-time police officer is needed at the Tyee High campus and Chinook Middle School.

The council members agreed and unanimously voted to renew the School Resource Officer (SRO) contract for the adjoining campuses.

Councilmember Pam Fernald noted constituents question her about the program.

The police chief said that a police officer has much more authority than a school district security officer. With arrest powers, a police officer can deal more effectively with weapons, drugs or an unruly student at school. The officer can also handle problems off school grounds, he added.

With the officer already on site, there are fewer 911 calls from the school, which would have taken officers off patrols, he added.

Especially in the middle school, a police officer can also develop relationships with students and serve as a mentor, he said.

“Just one person deciding not to go in the wrong direction would be worth it,” Graddon declared.

Graddon said because the Evergreen High campus does not have a school resource officer, “we suffer daily.”

SeaTac contracts with the King County Sheriff’s Office for police services. Graddon is not only the SeaTac police chief but is the sheriff’s precinct commander for the area that includes North Highline and Burien.

Assistant Burien Chief Carl Cole announced earlier this month at a forum, that if North Highline annexes to Burien, there are plans to split a SRO between Highline High and Evergreen or assign one full-time to Evergreen.

Graddon said the highly regarded Laws and Paws program headed by SeaTac’s resource officer Karen Davy will take “a short hiatus.”

The program allows at risk students to train shelter dogs for adoption.

Graddon said the program would return, possibly in partnership with Regional Animals Services of King County.

The police chief also noted a gang resistance training program at the schools has run out of funding.

With a smaller audience than previous council meetings, resident Earl Gipson urged expanding public comments during regular council meetings as well as study sessions.

Councilwoman Terry Anderson commented, “It kills me that no one is here.”

Councilman Rick Forschler said he favors returning to council committees in place of study sessions. He said staff presentations are now being made at study sessions instead of council meetings, which mean fewer people attend the regular meetings.

Northwest Symphony Orchestra conductor Anthony Spain told lawmakers the city’s Hotel/Motel Tax Advisory Committee declined to allocate $5,000 for the orchestra in SeaTac’s proposed 2013 budget.

The committee also struck the allocation in this year’s budget but council members restored it.

The symphony presents four concerts a year at the Highline Performing Arts Center in Burien. The season opening concert is Oct. 26.

Advisory committee members note that the hotel/motel tax fund is meant to encourage more people to stay in city lodgings. They argue the concerts do not put “heads in beds.”

The Burien Arts Commission has recommended Burien allocate $4,750 to the symphony as part of the city’s 2013 arts and culture funding.

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