Amesbury police Sgt. Kevin Donovan said that while the statistics aren’t directly related to incidents inside the city’s schools, they are part of the bigger picture showing the challenges of those entering the Amesbury public school system each year. Those challenges were also expressed by the school department and Pettengill House, which wrote letters of support as part of the police department’s grant application.
Donovan said that missing out on the grant would prove detrimental considering the police department applied for the grant last year but was rebuffed by the Department of Justice. This year, Amesbury was one of only three Bay State communities, along with Tewksbury and Chelsea, to receive the COPS grant. More than 50 departments across the state applied.
Amesbury police has been without a school resource officer since 2005 when current Sgt. Richard Poulin was assigned to both the high school and middle school. In addition to the school resource officer’s crime prevention role inside the schools, the officer also serves as a vital communication link between the police department and school officials. Add the educational component where an officer talks directly to students about the dangers of drug and alcohol use and the school resource officer’s role is multi-faceted and year-round.
Recently, Kezer said his immediate goal would be to sit down with Chief Financial Officer Michael Basque and come up with the best strategy to present the bill to the council.
Kelcourse, who is running for re-election, said he would welcome a discussion into whether the grant was worth the expense to the city, but wouldn’t be able to vote for it if it required residents to dig deeper into their pockets.
“Any additional expenditure that’s going to increase the burden on the taxpayers, I don’t think it’s acceptable. It’s not in their best interest,” Kelcourse said, adding he supported having a police officer stationed inside schools.