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After Going Without, Holmes High Seeks On-Campus Police Officer

There have been no school resource officers at Covington Independent Public Schools since the Kenton County Sheriff's Office pulled out following an agreement the district signed with the U.S. Department of Justice last summer.

But now the Covington Board of Education is turning to the City of Covington to provide an on-campus police officer at Holmes High School.

The board gave its approval to Superintendent Alvin Garrison to enter into an agreement with the city to provide an officer for the Holmes campus.

“The chief of police (Rob Nader) and I have been working together to enhance the safety and security steps that are already in place,’’ Garrison said in a statement to The River City News. “Having an officer on site is a win-win for the city and the school district.’’

Though the ongoing dialogue between the school district and the city began before the recent school shootings, Garrison pointed out that the tragedies serve as a stark reminder that the well-being of students and staff should always be at the forefront.

“Safety remains a priority for Covington Schools,’’ Garrison said.

The officer would work under the conditions set forth in the Department of Justice agreement. The officer will develop positive relationships with students and respond to any serious violations of law, Garrison said.

Those conditions were brought about following incidents involving a sheriff's deputy that gained national attention. In one case, an 8-year old boy at Latonia Elementary was handcuffed at the biceps and seen on video kicking and screaming. 

Sheriff Chuck Korzenborn said when the agreement with the Justice Department was reached, that his deputies would not be able to do their jobs. He ended the relationship with Covington Schools.

The district had previously contracted with Covington Police to provide school resource officers, but that changed several years ago.

On Tuesday night, the Covington city commission listened to the proposal as explained by Chief Nader.

The school board would pay $80,000 to cover the cost of an additional officer that would need to be hired in order to place one full-time at Holmes. Though the police department is set to have 110 officers, Nader said that due to training, injuries, and departures or resignations, the department currently has around 93 officers actively patrolling. 

Nader said to fill the contract, the department would have to pull an officer from current patrol duties until the end of the school year, and hire another officer before the school year starts again in the fall to keep the department adequately staffed. To fulfill that obligation for this academic year, the department would look for an officer to work overtime, Nader said.

Mayor Joe Meyer voiced concerns the agreement with the federal government severely limiting the authority of law enforcement on the schools.

“In this national environment, having law enforcement officers on school property is the only sensible thing to do,” Meyer said. “But on the other hand this agreement really seems to put our law enforcement in a challenging situation because they’re not allowed to do anything or use their law enforcement authority, except at school officials or if they see a situation that constitutes and eminent threat to physical safety or a serious crime.”

Currently, when law enforcement assistance is needed at the schools, Covington Police respond, but there is not a full-time presence.

“I do have a concern that we don’t have anyone up there all day, because Holmes is challenging,” said Commissioner Michelle Williams.

With concerns centered around officer safety and liability, the commissioners asked to see a completed contract for review before they would move the issue to a legislative agenda to be voted on.

The city's legal team is working with the school board's legal team to craft the agreement.
Written by Carrie Crotzer and Michael Monks
Photo: Holmes High School (RCN file)