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South Williamsport schools’ resource officer to become district police officer

Officer Michael Samar, who has served as the school resource officer for South Williamsport Area School District for the past three years, will assume duties as a school police officer at the start of the new fiscal year, July 1, following a unanimous vote by the school board to transition to the program.

This new position is a break from the SRO program, which was operated through an agreement with the South Williamsport Borough to provide a duty officer for the position. The agreement expires June 30.

“There are just some limitations with that current arrangement with the borough and some contractual issues with the officer,” Dr. Mark Stamm, district superintendent said when asked why the district was moving away from the agreement with the borough.

“There are just limitations on how we can grow this program any further as it sits. This allows us to move it under our complete jurisdiction,” he added.

He noted that the action resulted from a “mutual conversation” with the borough.

“And I had complete support when I explained what we were doing and why we were doing that,” Stamm said.

In making the case for a move to the school police officer position, the district cited several benefits of the program, such as allowing the expansion of services and an increase in the officer’s presence on campus. In addition the new position provides for expanded jurisdiction over students to include all student and school activities regardless of location and on district transportation to respond to incidents and calls for service.

“The examples that we’ve often dealt with are officers of ours have currently been limited by the jurisdiction of the Borough,” Stamm said.

“So, even if we have a bus that travels outside the Borough of South Williamsport, we no longer have jurisdiction over the students on that bus. If we have a prom event that’s held at the Scottish Rite auditorium, he does not have jurisdiction over the students and what may happen there,” he continued.

“Once he becomes a police officer for the school district, he now has jurisdiction over the students in a student activity regardless of where they are,” he added.

The SRO program had been funded by a two-year $90,000 competitive implementation grant which provided $60,000 for the first year and $30,000 for the second year. Samar’s salary in the SPO position will be $47,370.

A year after the district entered into the agreement with the borough, Act 67, which authorizes the creation of school police officers in addition to other school safety measures, was enacted.

These officers are appointed by a commonwealth judge and have the same authority as municipal officers, but their jurisdiction is the school district. They have the authority to issue citations for summary offenses, such as truancy, conduct criminal investigations, make arrests and carry a firearm on school property.

In conjunction with this motion, the board also approved the submission of an application consistent with Act 67 of 2019 to the Court of Common Pleas to appoint Samar as the school police officer, granting him authority to issue citations, make arrests and to carry a firearm in the performance of his duties.

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