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School resource officer proposed for Florence County Schools

FLORENCE COUNTY SHERIFF Dan Miller, left, and Deputy Eric Windell introduce the department’s new K-9, Rambo, to the Florence County Board on Tuesday. A fund drive to acquire and train the German shepherd generated more than $40,000, Miller said. (Betsy Bloom/Daily News photo)

FLORENCE, Wis. — The Florence County School District administrator is preparing to make a pitch for public funding to have a law enforcement officer in the schools.

Ben Niehaus told the county board Tuesday the district is gathering information on the potential costs to have a full-time school resource officer.

The push gained additional relevance Feb. 13 after a student reportedly made a potential school threat. While the sheriff’s department response was prompt and excellent, it illustrated why an on-site officer would be useful, he said.

In letters to the local Florence Mining News newspaper, both Niehaus and Florence County Sheriff Dan Miller outlined reasons for adding the school resource officer.

Niehaus noted the sheriff’s department — Florence County has no incorporated communities, so no local police officers — was on site at the school 384 times in 2019.

Adding a school resource officer “will be a proactive measure that will better assure the safety of our children and all who support them at our school,” Miller stated in his letter to the newspaper.

While he did not have figures for funding the school resource officer, Niehaus said Tuesday he was confident it would cost the average Florence County taxpayer less than $1 a month.

In November, Iron Mountain School District voters backed a proposal to fund a full-time police liaison officer in Iron Mountain Public Schools.

Miller on Tuesday also presented his department’s annual report, which included —

— Responding to 4,921 calls in 2019;

— A turnout of more than 1,000 for the first Tri-County National Night Out on Aug. 4 at the Northeast Wisconsin Technical College campus in Aurora, Wis. The next National Night Out will be 4 to 8 p.m. Aug. 4 at the same location;

— Adding a $2,500 used armored vehicle for the Critical Incident Response Team;

— Plans in 2020 to replace the jail roof and floor;

— Having two deputies on duty at the same time in the county;

— Receiving a $50,000 grant for new equipment that included dual-band radios to communicate with neighboring Michigan law enforcement;

— Acquiring enough used Tasers to equip every officer.

Helping to introduce Miller’s presentation Tuesday was new department K-9 Rambo, a 2-year-old German shepherd bred in the Czech Republic and trained at Jessiffany Canine Services in Iron Ridge, Wis. Rambo joined the department after a fundraising effort that has raised more than $40,000, Miller said. He and handler Deputy Eric Windell completed training Feb. 8.

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