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School officer could strain police force

By Staff | Jul 6, 2009

Having a school resource officer at Blue Earth Area schools is just too good of a program to lose.

Even if it results in added pressure to the city’s other police officers.

Last year, Todd Purvis and Jacob Ruppert shared the part-time duties of working 20 hours a week between the district’s four school buildings.

That was when the police department had six officers on the force.

Now there are five and Police Chief Dean Vereide doesn’t know what the impact will be, if any.

“We’ll work through it. The question will be whether there will be strains where we didn’t have any before,” says Vereide.

The police chief says any future problems could have been avoided.

Vereide says he was disappointed when councilmembers rejected his plan a couple of years ago to add a seventh officer to work as an investigator and school resource officer.

Furthermore, when Ruppert resigned recently to take a job with the Martin County Sheriff’s Department the council decided not to replace him.

“Apparently we are doing too good of a job, so they don’t add an officer when we lose one,” he says. “If you can’t keep up fixing the streets, like the Public Works department, the council gives them an extra employee.”

BEA officials have taken into account that local police will have less manpower than they did this year.

The district recently approved a contract for next year to have just one officer — Purvis — work with students.

Superintendent Dale Brandsoy says the position has been reduced to 10 hours a week, instead of 20.

“They’re struggling with their own scheduling issues, with one less officer,” he says. “We didn’t want to add to their situation. But, we didn’t want to cut out the program altogether.”

The officer liaison program is funded with money collected from the district’s “Safe Schools Levy.”

Brandsoy says less money collected from the levy made the officer liaison position a budget item that needed to be trimmed.

For more of this story, see this week’s Register.