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Troy Williams

Troy Williams

As you know, the Portage Township Schools superintendent and the School Board ended its nearly 20-year relationship with the Portage Police Department back on Sept. 5. But what was it over?

Because we wanted officers to still wear their uniform and have access to all the equipment they would normally carry while in uniform, which is considered “best practice.”

Because we arrested less than 1 percent of the student population for crimes such as strangulation, battery to a school official, narcotics dealing/possession, gang activity, battery with a deadly weapon and child exploitation, to name just a few. The students, staff and parents I’ve spoken with have passionately expressed to me they want to see their schools kept safe and have those serious violators removed from campus.

Because we wanted to give PTS four officers for the cost of about $85,446.84. However, the superintendent and School Board have chosen to sign a four-year contact with the Porter County Sheriff’s Department that pays two full-time sheriff salaries at $56,000 each (more than most PTS teachers are paid), plus benefits (which generally includes health insurance, dental insurance, longevity, Medicare, life insurance and pension contribution), which conservatively adds $5,000 to $6,000 to the overall amount. So, let’s call that $62,000 for each position, or $124,000 per year.

PTS is also paying two part-time officer positions using officers from the Sheriff’s Department, Indiana State Police and Department of Natural Resources at $30 an hour for an eight-hour school day, which equates to $480 per day and $86,400 for the school year.

If my math is correct, PTS is choosing to spend $210,400 per year for four officers from other jurisdictions to cover the schools instead of having or including four Portage police school resource officers at cost of $85,446.84 per year. In past years, PTS and Portage police had a Memorandum of Understanding that covered reimbursement between the two entities, so it begs the question: Why was a binding four-year contract necessary?

I also seem to recall a recent petition signed by over 650 Portage High School students who wanted to see the Portage SROs brought back. That request appears to have been summarily dismissed by the superintendent and School Board.

The relationships with students and staff established by Portage SROs over nearly 20 years were solid and respected and helped keep Portage Township Schools safe. However, at the end of the day, it appears that what the community, students and staff wanted was not the priority; fewer of those serious arrests and excessive spending were.

Portage Police Chief Troy Williams was elected to the Portage School Board Nov. 6. The opinions are the writer's.

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Porter County Government Reporter

Senior reporter Doug Ross, an award-winning writer, has been covering Northwest Indiana for more than 35 years, including more than a quarter of a century at The Times.