Four Union County school districts will have an increased law enforcement presence on their campuses starting this fall.

The La Grande, Cove, Union and North Powder school districts are entering into an agreement with the Union County Sheriff’s Office for sharing the expense of a school resource officer for three years. They are working in cooperation with the InterMountain Education Service District, which also will pay a portion of the cost of the school resource officer, said Union County Sheriff Boyd Rasmussen.

The individual who will serve as the new school resource officer, Deputy Tony Humphries, will work in the Cove, North Powder and Union school districts Monday through Thursday and in the La Grande School District on Fridays, Rasmussen said.

The La Grande School District already has a full-time school resource officer and will continue to when Humphries assumes his new position.

Humphries will provide La Grande with eight additional hours of school resource officer service a week, said La Grande School District Superintendent George Mendoza.

Humphries has been with the Union County Sheriff’s Office since 2006. The deputy has gotten to know many students in the county during this time while teaching Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) classes in schools.

“He knows kids and has a great rapport with them and is very approachable,” Rasmussen said.

North Powder School District Superintendent Lance Dixon deserves a lot of credit for the creation of the collaboration after coming up with the idea two years ago, Rasmussen said.

“He got the ball rolling,” the sheriff said.

The Elgin School District will not be part of the collaboration because the Union County Sheriff’s Office already has a strong presence in Elgin, said its superintendent Dianne Greif. She explained the City of Elgin has a contract with the Union County Sheriff’s Office for enhanced services.

Greif said that sheriff’s office deputies regularly visit Elgin’s schools and are popular with students.

The Imbler School District seriously considered being part of the SRO collaboration, said Superintendent Angie Lakey-Campbell. She said it opted not to join after determining it would be best to spend the money that would have gone toward the collaborative on additional counseling services.

“We have doubled the amount of time we are providing counseling services,” Lakey-Campbell said.

Cove School District Superintendent Earl Pettit is excited about the prospect of having a school resource officer for the first time.

“He will build relationships with students,” Pettit said.

The resource officer will help students develop a better understanding of the role of police.

“A lot of kids think they are to be avoided. They don’t realize that (police officers) are there to serve them rather than chase them,” Pettit said.

The SRO collaborative will apply for a Community Oriented Policing Services grant to help fund the program initially. The grant would pay 75 percent of the salary and benefits of the SRO the first year, 50 percent the second year and 25 percent the third year, said Larry Glaze, the InterMountain ESD’s director of operations.

Glaze, who helped organize the collaborative, is impressed with the level of enthusiasm the superintendents of the four school districts are expressing for the project.

“They are showing a lot of creativity in determining how they will use the school resource officer,” said Glaze, who retired as superintendent of the La Grande School District in June 2017.

Glaze is optimistic about the addition of a second school resource officer.

“It is an exciting project that holds a lot of promise,” Glaze said.