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Macomb to add a second school resource officer

Denise Cremer.jpg
Rich Egger
/
TSPR
Denise Cremer is the current school resource officer in Macomb This fall she will be joined by a second school resource officer.

Macomb is seeing a rise in criminal behavior by juveniles. The city and the school district hope that adding a second school resource officer might help turn around the trend.

The problem is especially acute among students of junior high age and the first couple years of high school, according to Superintendent Patrick Twomey.

“Those are the years kids need that structure in their lives. That’s when you learn the consequences of right from wrong,” he said.

Twomey said kids did not have that structure for two years because of the pandemic. He said the change in conduct was noticeable when students returned to entirely in-person instruction this past school year.

“We had more violence and more fighting than ever in the history of our school,” Twomey said.

The superintendent said because of the increase in incidents, School Resource Officer Denise Cremer ended up spending less time on campus and more time in the courthouse or writing reports.

JV crime statistics

The Macomb Police Department does not have statistics on juvenile crime for the past school year.

But Chief Jerel Jones said there was an increase in juvenile incidents between calendar years 2020 and 2021. He described “incidents” as including crimes such as battery, aggravated battery, and disorderly conduct, plus alcohol and drug offenses.

Jones said:

  • In-school incidents doubled from 17 in 2020 to 35 in 2021
  • Calls for service involving juveniles anywhere in town rose from 175 to 204
  • The number of in-school arrests tripled, from six in 2020 to 19 the following year

City council member questions police spending

Jones told the city council that adding a second school resource officer would help provide additional safety, security, and community engagement.

But at-large city council member Dennis Moon was upset with the request, leading to the following exchange:

Moon: No offense, but every time you’ve come before us it’s cost us money. This is another non-budgeted item. We have increased the size of the police force. I just wonder when it’s going to end.

Jones: I’ve done everything that I’ve been asked to do as your chief of police, and I will continue to work tirelessly to make sure that we move forward in a positive direction.

Moon: We developed a budget, and I’m aware of two requests that already exceed the budget or are not included in the budget. We’ve got other departments that we’ve asked to cut back and not request for equipment and stuff. And software. It runs the gamut.

Jones: Alderman, with all due respect, I have done my absolute best to remain within our budget and I will continue to be as fiscally conservative as possible.

City council approval

The city council eventually agreed to hire a second school resource officer. The vote was unanimous – even Moon voted in favor.

Moon said his concerns were about the police department’s budgeting and not the value of adding a second officer for the schools.

Superintendent Twomey said the school district is thrilled the city council approved the second school resource officer. He said these officers are specifically trained on how to deal with youth and youth issues.

“It’s not just a policeman off the street that comes in and starts working in the school. It’s someone who is highly trained (on) how to deal with the social and emotional needs of kids,” Twomey said.

The school district will pay a bit more than half the salary and benefits for each officer. The city will cover the rest.

Chief Jones said the second school resource officer will be hired from within the department. He said several members already have training -- and in some cases experience -- for the role.

Tri States Public Radio produced this story.  TSPR relies on financial support from our readers and listeners in order to provide coverage of the issues that matter to west central Illinois, southeast Iowa, and northeast Missouri. As someone who values the content created by TSPR's news department please consider making a financial contribution.

Rich is TSPR's News Director.