Mars Area School District still in pursuit of police

August 9, 2019 Cranberry Local News

ADAMS TWP — Mars Area School Board rescinded the July 2 hiring of two armed police officers at Tuesday night’s meeting. One hire, according to school board officials, returned to his old job for better pay and benefits. The other simply “parted ways” with the district.

District Solicitor Tom King said he couldn’t comment on a personnel matter.

“We’re going to hire the right people,” King said. “Our goal is still to have officers in each building.”

The district previously had one Adams Township police officer responsible for all five buildings.

The district contracted two officers from Adams Township at a rate of $150,000 a year in July. The other three positions will be filled by retired law enforcement in connection with Senate Bill 621, which was enacted July 2. Under the law, districts can hire any retired federal, state or municipal agent, retired military police, retired sheriff or retired deputy sheriff as an armed officer.

“We created what we called a ‘hybrid’ force,” King said. “(This act) expanded the pool.”

According to King, Pennsylvania looked at Butler Area School District as an example of which qualifications should be considered when hiring district officers. The Butler district had been working with 28 retired state police, who were among the only qualified individuals under previous state law. King explained if those stipulations continued, the district — and county — would be dealing with a future shortage of qualified individuals. The new act allows candidates to come from more varied backgrounds.

King has already talked to Adams Township Police Chief Shawn Anglum about the issue. Anglum will oversee the district’s police and safety operations when school starts.

At the moment, the district has one retired state trooper and two Adams Township police officers on its squad full time. Another officer has been hired for a part-time position, but might be able to “substitute” until the other two positions are filled.

The district aims to fill those spots by the start of school next month. If it doesn’t, King said Anglum will devise a patrol plan that will “secure safety in all buildings.”

Anglum’s involvement is, according to King, an example of the community and district working together to protect students.

“I think it’s a really good method,” King said. “I think there will be a much-improved safety net to protect the students and the staff.”

The district’s wage for armed police officers is $24 an hour. Adams Township police are contracted through the department and not paid directly by the district.