Meet Peninsula schools’ two new armed safety and security officers
Peninsula School District has hired two new armed safety and security officers.
Unlike school resource officers, they are employees of the district. SROs are law enforcement officers contracted by the district in coordination with a local police or sheriff’s department, typically with a cost-sharing arrangement.
“PSD has not employed any SROs since the pandemic,” said Kris Hagel, executive director of digital learning, who also oversees safety and security.
Brent Campbell will be assigned to Peninsula High School and Michael Janke will be assigned to Gig Harbor High School. They will also be available to all of the high school’s middle and elementary schools as need arises, as well as Henderson Bay High School.
Large pool of applicants
The two SSOs are year-round employees. During the school year, they’ll assist with school safety. During summer break, they’ll assist with emergency management policies, procedures and training.
“Both security officers will act as first responders in the case of a security incident and will work to foster a culture of respect and understanding on PSD campuses through meaningful student and parent relationships,” Hagel said in a statement on behalf of the district.
Both Campbell and Janke come to the district with backgrounds in law enforcement and student safety. They were selected from among a pool of around 200 applicants and 100 qualified candidates.
Panels composed of students, parents, staff and administrators interviewed six finalists. The district conducted emotional intelligence testing. Superintendent Krestin Bahr, Hagel and an outside expert did the final interviews, according to a district news release.
Gig Harbor High’s SSO
Campbell and Janke were introduced at the school board meeting Thursday, July 27.
Janke, who is tall, towered over the podium.
“I lovingly go by the nickname ‘Moose,’ so feel free to call me ‘Moose,’” he said. “I bring a lot of experience to this new position. My background is fire, police and EMS.”
Janke has an associate degree in fire science from Madison Area Technical College in Wisconsin,and is pursuing a bachelor’s degree at Multnomah University, in Portland, Oregon.
He worked as a firefighter and EMT in Vail, Colorado, and was a field training officer for the Travis County Sheriff’s Office in Austin, Texas, for four years. His most recent role was as the campus safety officer for Tacoma Community College. He is certified to teach first aid and CPR and is a women’s self-defense instructor.
“I have a lot of experience in teaching and certifying people to respond in emergency situations,” he said. “I really am looking forward to building a program from the ground up, and bringing safety, security and a sense of well-being to everyone that’s involved in the district. So, thank you.”
Peninsula High’s SSO
Campbell is a former officer with the Redmond Police Department. He owns a private investigation company that is operated by his son.
He has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Western Washington University. Before being hired by PSD, Campbell most recently was a security specialist with Monroe School District, “where I have spent a lot of time dealing with the same problems and the same issues that the school district here has. So, I’m very well versed in that,” he said.
“I really appreciate this opportunity. I cannot wait to get started. I’m really excited,” Campbell said.
“We’ve been waiting a long time to bring on safety and security officers in our district,” said board President Natalie Wimberley. “We are in the business of serving children, and their safety, security and wellbeing is paramount to this board, to our teachers and our staff. Thank you (Janke and Campbell) for being willing to stand up and serve our kids.”
Recent history on SROs
Peninsula School District did have an SRO on contract through the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department. When COVID hit, the district did not renew the contract, Hagel said.
After COVID, staffing issues within the sheriff’s department meant the district no longer had access to that service, and local law enforcement also wasn’t in a position to provide an SRO. The district instead pursued hiring its own safety and security officers.
The salary for each position is around $107,000 and is covered from the district’s operations levy (the Replacement Educational Programs and Operations levy approved by voters in February). The district also passed a Safety, Security and Technology Levy, which funds secure building access controls, emergency communications systems, security cameras and cybersecurity, along with student and staff devices.
“While we were out in the community talking with people around the new Safety, Security and Technology Levy last fall, we heard from the community that they really wanted some support in our buildings and this is in response to those desires,” Hagel said.
SROs possible in future
The district is still open to an SRO, should the opportunity arise, Hagel said. “If the availability to have SROs is possible, we will investigate where they might fit into our organization and work with the departments on that when/if it’s a possibility.”
Some districts are moving away from having specifically SROs at their schools because some studies show SROs can create a high rate of arrests among marginalized minors. Asked what benefits the district sees in having safety and security officers in schools, Hagel responded as follows:
“Both of PSD’s new SSOs were highly regarded by the students who were a part of the student interview panels last week. We believe that these staff members will make great connections with our students and be a resource they can come to when they hear of things happening in schools that may potentially be unsafe. While both of our new school safety officers are former law enforcement, they will not be commissioned officers, so the worries around increased arrests should not be an issue.”