Donations save school cop program — for now

By Kelsey Leyva -

Donations are keeping police patrolling Wellington school hallways — at least for the fall.

Despite cutbacks at the end of last year that eliminated the school resource officer program and saved the district $33,375, police were present when fall classes began Sept. 2.

Two local businesses gave funds to keep officers on patrol: Forest City Technologies donated $10,000 and Fort’s Tavern donated $200.

Wellington police chief Tim Barfield said that’s enough to fund the program for about a third of the year. The money covers the pay of the five officers who take turns visiting schools one day a week.

Lt. Jeff Shelton is a school resource officer and is happy to see the program continue. He said officers participating in the program are dedicated to helping students.

“If they didn’t like doing it they wouldn’t because we all work doubles,” he said.

Officers make their rounds to all three Wellington schools from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. After that they work the patrol shift from 4 p.m. to midnight. Shelton said officers sometimes work an overnight shift through 8 a.m. before going to the schools for a day shift.

Barfield said the program provides more than security for staff and students.

“It is a trust-builder,” Barfield said. “It gives these (officers) an opportunity to reach out to these kids because not only do they see them in school, but when school’s out these kids see them on the streets and they have somebody that they may have said hello to our talked to and they know they can trust.”

Shelton said the officers set aside an hour each day to listen to students who need a listening ear.

The department is looking for ways to generate more funding for the program.

A fundraiser will be held from noon to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 26 in downtown Wellington. Some businesses will raffle off items, sell hot dogs and water, or donate portions of their proceeds to the cause.

“We made it part of our mission to find a way to fund it because not only is it good for the schools but it’s good for the police department and it’s good for the village to have the police officers having these contacts with people,” he said.

Kelsey Leyva can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @TWE_KelseyLeyva on Twitter.

By Kelsey Leyva