Beginning in January, the Scottsbluff Police Department will begin providing two officers as security on the Western Nebraska Community College campus.
The Scottsbluff City Council approved the action at its meeting Monday night. The WNCC board will review the agreement for final approval at their regular Board of Governor’s meeting Dec. 18.
“We’re extremely excited,” Police Chief Kevin Spencer said. “It’s going to be a good opportunity for us and WNCC to be able to make their campus as safe as we possibly can.”
The two officers assigned to WNCC will come from the current staff with Corp. Matthew Broderick having already been named as one of the officers.
William Knapper, vice president of administrative services at WNCC, said they have agreed to start with one officer.
“We’re starting with one and as the chief (Spencer) is able to hire additional staff and get them trained up and added to the force, they will bring a second officer on,” Knapper said.
The timeline for having an officer on campus is anticipated to begin in January.
The cost of the officers’ salaries will be split between the college and the city for the nine months of regular session at WNCC. The city will bill the college for its portion of the cost, and the officers will be employees of the city. For the remaining three summer months, the officers will be available to work regular patrol shifts and cover vacations as needed. The agreement may possibly be modified depending on needs for summer school or events. The first priority is to work on a schedule that will ensure coverage for times when school is in session and for other events at Cougar Palace and the Harms Center as needed. The officers will not be enforcing any student conduct or WNCC policies. Their role will be for campus safety and violations of the law.
“We wanted to make sure that we have that presence there to make sure that the campus is safe,” Scottsbluff City Manager Nathan Johnson said.
As WNCC and the law enforcement work through the implementation process, WNCC interim president John Harms said he is excited about this collaboration.
“I’m really excited about this,” he said. “I just think it brings an element of security that we need. It’s important to have them here on our campus and have them visible. I think when people actually see law enforcement, sometimes, they’ll back away from things they’re thinking about.”
Harms and Knapper want to ensure the public and WNCC staff and students there are no current threat. Knapper hopes this step will serve as a deterrent for any such activity.
"In this day and age, you just can’t do enough along those lines,” Knapper said. “Right now, a deterrence is a good defense for the safety of students, staff and the public that come out to the college.”
The contract would have officers present from the morning through 11 p.m. During the overnight hours, the college has a security firm monitoring campus activity. Should anything suspicious arise, they would contact the communications center and law enforcement would respond.
To help with the implementation process, Harms said faculty and students will go through workshops about the role of the officers on campus and the officers will also go through trainings about what the college expects. Harms said this collaborative effort is important for the campus and the safety of staff, students and the community.
Scottsbluff already has school resource officers in Bluffs Middle School and Scottsbluff High School, so Johnson said some of the same principles will be continued with the program at WNCC. The partnership enables the city to have a strong relationship with both the school district and the college district.
“We think it’s instrumental,” Johnson said of the agreement. “We’re all funded in some form or fashion through tax money. To have a community such as Scottsbluff working together with the city, the school district and the community college, it’s truly remarkable. If you look at other communities, whether it be in the state, region or the country, sometimes you don’t get that cohesiveness and willingness to work together for the common good of the community. We feel really good about the partnership. We’re excited to see where this goes. We’re very happy that we’re moving forward with this.”
The addition of two officers will increase the police force from 31 to 33 sworn officers.
“Increasing the number of certified law enforcement officers in our department, I think, is key for a community that we consider to be an economic hub of Western Nebraska,” Johnson said.