The addition of a full-time school resource officer to the Montevideo Police Department is now a certainty.
Officer Nick Gunderson, who previously stepped forward to teach the DARE program at the Montevideo school district, has been selected for the position.
The position, which was discussed as an option for two years between Superintendent Dr. Luther Heller and Police Chief Adam Christopher, was brought before the Montevideo City Council in February and approved in May.
“It’s an incredibly valuable position. It’s so much more than an armed guard type situation. You hear that a lot on the news, but that’s not what this is. They’d be a very outside the box thinker, working on bullying initiatives and investigations within the schools,” Christopher said in May. “It also puts a positive face on law enforcement to students, so they feel safe talking to law enforcement if they need to.”
According to the agreement between the city and the school district, the city would agree to provide one full-time police officer as a resource officer to the school. The officer would be required to have three years of experience in police work and have prior experience working with children and needs to be DARE certified.
Gunderson’s selection was made by Christopher. “Nick is the right guy for the job,” he said.
Heller also voiced his opinion, saying, “You really need to have a police officer in that role that is really interested in doing that. That's what we have in Officer Gunderson.”
Gunderson said that he was interested in the position because, after stepping in to learn and teach the DARE program, he found the experience to be rewarding and was happy to continue working with students and the district.
The duties of the resource officer are: Teaching the DARE curriculum, providing general security to all school buildings and property, identifying threats to students and staff and serving as the school’s crisis responder, investigating any incident on school property, developing and presenting programs to students and staff about public safety, substance abuse and crime prevention and obtaining information on runaways and habitual truants.
Gunderson said that, while there is a list of responsibilities, there is a bit more to the position.
“The position will grow, and I’ll be learning as I go,” he said. “The position will develop along with me.”
He went on to say that a large part of the position isn’t just fulfilling specific duties, but being a police presence that can serve as a positive connection with kids in the district, so that there can be someone familiar to them if they need help.
“We wanted someone who can develop a relationship with the kids,” Heller said.
Page 2 of 2 - “There might be other things I can be available to help the school with, such as safety protocols and measures,” Gunderson said.
Heller said that Gunderson will be starting with the new position next Tuesday, Aug. 27, at an in-service day for teachers. After that, he’ll be ready to start with the school year.
“I don’t have a specific (hour to hour) schedule worked out yet,” Gunderson said. “It will probably change and develop along with the needs of the school.”
Heller said, “We do want him to be visible in each building ... I would anticipate that on many days he’ll probably put in an appearance in most of the buildings.”
To fund the position, the school district is responsible for $64,473 and the city is responsible for $27,200 the first year.
This covers base salary, all benefits, including heath insurance, pension, uniform allowance, life insurance, dental, accrued vacation and sick time. Also included is a portion for cell phone and data card for a department computer at the school resource officer office. A small amount of overtime is figured in, plus some fuel expenses for a squad car that would be used.