Granite School Police Force Could Be History

Granite School Police Force Could Be History

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Richard Piatt Reporting Utah has one school district with its own police force, but tonight those officers in the Granite District are wondering about their future. After 20 years with it's own police force, the board of education is taking a hard look at the pros and cons of keeping it as is, adding to it, even answering those who want it dissolved completely.

Granite school district is proud of its police force. Officer's duties include the routine of checking locked doors. Almost as often they take weapons, drugs, and more away from students, from the elementary schools to the high schools. It's that dedicated service to the system's 89 schools and the people in them the district fiercely defends.

Stephen Ronnenkamp, Granite School District Superintendent:"School safety is one of our highest priorities. If a school isn't safe, learning doesn't go on in that school."

But in October of last year, district officer Todd Rassmussen went beyond district boundaries, shooting a robbery suspect after a high speed chase through Salt Lake County. The officer was later charged with aggravated assault and is on leave.

Indirectly, that incident has brought up tough questions the Granite Board of Education, the Superintendent, even the Legislature is talking about. One of them: Is the District's one-and-a-half million dollar budget wise use of precious education money? And is there a liability question for the district in instances like the shooting?

Patricia Sandstrom, President, Granite Board of Education: "I'm willing to deal with that, if it means the safety of our kids and we have trained officers who handle our kids safely. I'm willing to deal with that."

The general feeling in the district is that the Granite police department is worth the money, the liability question, the fight. The shooting is a sore subject, seen as an isolated incident. But this summer the Legislature will seriously study legislation that could lead to the end of the department.

Rep. Ron Bigelow, (R) West Valley City: "What is the role of the board in safety in the schools and in having a police department? And what are their boundaries? We have the same questions."

Again, the Legislature is merely studying the issue right now. There are strong feelings on both sides of the issue, but a lot of people in the Granite system just don't think they can get the same level of protection they get with their own police department.

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