Calera, Alabaster to receive COPs grant to fund officers for schools

Students in Calera and Alabaster will be greeted by police officers when they return to school after summer vacation.

The U.S. Department of Justice announced last week grants totaling $906,067 to hire eight new law enforcement officers to work in Alabaster and Calera schools.

Funded by Congress, the Community Oriented Policing (COPs) in Schools program pays for the salaries and benefits of the new officers for three years.

Six of the officers will be assigned in Alabaster and two in Calera.

U.S. Rep. Spencer Bachus said the presence of the officers will provide on-site security for students and teachers while helping officers to build healthy relationships with students and instill in them a respect for the law.

&uot;Police officers in schools not only deter violence and monitor troubled students, they can also counsel students on problems like drugs and alcohol,&uot; Bachus said.

Calera Police Chief Jim Finn said one officer will be on duty at both Calera High School and Calera Elementary School from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

During the summer and school breaks, the officers can be stationed in other parts of the city, he said.

Finn said the grant will allow the department to continue to place officers at school functions such as Parent-Teacher Association meetings and sporting events as well as help out with morning and afternoon traffic.

&uot;The problem is we are growing so much that we are having to move people around, and this will allow us to keep the officers in the schools,&uot; Finn said.

Seventeen police officers and one reserve officer currently work for the Calera Police Department, and Finn said he hopes to add several more officers next year in addition to the two provided by the COPs in Schools grant to keep up with the city’s growth.

Alabaster Det. Andrew Bryant, who wrote the grant request for the Alabaster Police Department, also said the city’s growth was a factor in the department receiving all six of the officers it requested.

With six schools educating an average of 800 students each in Alabaster, Bryant said officials determined a large portion of the city’s population could be found in the classroom.

&uot;Basically, these students were not receiving the same level of police protection as the rest of the general population,&uot; he said.

Police Chief Stanley Oliver said the new officers should go far in improving community relations with law enforcement, for both students and parents.

&uot;There is no greater comfort you can give a parent than for them to drop off their child and see a uniformed police officer and know they will be there the whole time their child is there,&uot; Oliver said.

Oliver emphasized the new officers are not the result of problems with crime in schools.

In fact, he said a majority of the officers’ time will be spent interfacing with students and building relationships that will benefit the entire community.

Thompson High School Principal Ron Griggs agreed and said he hopes the officers will be able to instruct students in classes such as social studies and civics, educating them on the realities of law enforcement and allowing students to feel more comfortable in the presence of a uniformed officer.

&uot;This is something we’ve been plugging for a long time,&uot; Griggs said. &uot;This will allow the students to see police officers in a little different light.&uot;