POUGHKEEPSIE – Two federal grants are slated to fund an additional school resource officer in the Poughkeepsie City School District and provide safety upgrades in the schools.
The City of Poughkeepsie Police Department, which has committed a substantial amount of resources to the district as a result of shootings, stabbings, and fights along with unruly behavior at the high school, has received a $75,000 federal grant to fund a second School Resource Officer (SRO) in the district. Police Officer Jonathan Geuss is slated to become an SRO at the middle school in March.
The school district worked with the city police to apply for the US Department of Justice Office of Community-Oriented Policing Services grants. The COPS Hiring Program grant will help the police pay for Geuss’s SRO detail at the Poughkeepsie Middle School.
Da’Ron Wilson, the district’s executive director of school engagement, stressed the prevention part of the grant. “The SRO is not there to arrest people,” he said. According to Wilson, the officers are in the schools to help develop positive relationships with students and intervene before a situation escalates to violence.
Police Captain Richard Wilson said the intent “intent is to do crisis intervention and de-escalate situations. That is paramount to addressing these issues of violence.”
Detective Karen Zirbel serves as the only SRO in the district currently and divides her time between the high and middle schools. Captain Wilson said the new officer won’t be a detective like Zirbel, who also works on the investigative side. But, they will “serve a lot of the same functions and collaborate with the school district at that level and with Karen. That is a better fit than having a civilian there as they’ll have more knowledge of police functions.”
Training for the officers is also provided under the grant. “I feel like we started this hybrid model (of having a detective involved and addressing other issues) and it feels like everyone else is falling in line. Now a lot of the training is community resource officer-based because of the shift to a more social work kind of role,” Detective Zirbel said.