'A paramount issue right now': Omaha Public Schools to pay $1.6 million for school resource officers this year

Posted at 7:01 PM, Aug 15, 2022

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Later this week students will return to Omaha Public Schools for the school year and school safety is likely to be on parents' minds less than three months after a shooter in Uvalde, Texas killed more than 20 students and staff members at Robb Elementary School.

“School safety obviously is a paramount issue right now,” said OPD Sgt. Eric Picht.

Since the mass shooting in Texas, Sgt. Eric Picht, a supervisor of school resource officers for the Omaha Police Department, said he can’t get into specifics but they took in some lessons from that tragedy.

“We look at that stuff very closely, and very tragic situations, and we always look to learn about circumstances — like what could have been done better, even on our own policy and procedure based on what’s happening around the country,” said Picht.

Omaha Public Schools tells 3 News Now they’ve prioritized school safety for years and have hired school resource officers for their middle and high schools for quite a while.

While some SROs are Bellevue police officers or Douglas County sheriff deputies, the majority are either full-time or retired Omaha police officers.

They have a few roles in the schools — first and foremost securing the schools, but that’s not all.

“They have relationships, they’re there also as a system of support for kids and because they have those relationships when students have needs or concerns, they’ll work with their counselor or they’ll go to their school resource officer for assistance,” said Lisa Utterback, who leads student and community service for OPS.

“Really a jack-of-all-trades that assists the school district and school administration with essentially anything you can think of,” said Picht.

While officers have a clear role inside schools their help isn’t cheap. The OPS school board approved the contracts over the summer. Utterback said they expect to pay law enforcement $1.6 million for this upcoming school year and summer school.

That includes two new OPS high schools, Buena Vista and Westview, opening this year.

“They are part of our staff per se when we employ them through our local law enforcement agencies to support the overall safety needs of the school,” said Utterback.

And while plenty of training happens already, Picht said they’re pushing to get more training for students and officers.

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