The Brighton Area Board of Education renewed its contract with the City of Brighton Police Department for a police liaison officer in a 7-1 vote after much debate.
Trustee John Conely cast the dissenting vote, but he was joined during the debate by Trustee Miles Vieau.
Nothing will change in the contract, including the salary the district pays the liaison - $79,663. Superintendent Greg Gray said the salary was equivalent to that of a first-year teacher.
Vieau said he was concerned about the amount the district was paying and believed that the board could find a retired police officer to do the job for half the money - similar to the arrangement that Hartland Consolidated Schools have.
Conely suggested hiring a security firm to provide guards inside the school.
"There are ways to do this at half the cost," he said.
Gray said that it was a different level of service because a police officer has the authority to write tickets and make arrests on the spot whereas a retired police officer or security guard would take the situation to the administration who would then have to call the police.
"Why do you think our kids behave so well?," Gray asked. "One - because they come from good familes. Two - because our police liaison officer has some role of authority."
While the contract states specific hours during the school day, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., the liaison often works nights during sports events, dances and other evening activities in addition to being in charge of the Safe Schools Committee and putting on mock disasters for students, according to Gray.
Conely said he simply did not like a police officer walking around in the school with a handgun.
"That's the reality of the world," Gray said to Conely's dislike of guns. "That's why he (police liaison) is highly trained."
"If you ever experienced an incident of guns in the building, you would appreciate it - and I speak from experience," Board President Cheryl Leach said.
Mike Voories commented on Brighton Patch's Facebook Page that the benefits to having a police liaison officer are not limited to safety alone
"The interaction between the local police and our school children (is one benefit) for starters," he said. "The much needed ease of access to police, the liaison officer makes possible to the students. In addition, the first-hand knowledge of what's going on in our school(s) can not be obtained by the police in any other manner as effective as being on site. While a security officer is certainly better than nothing, it's miles the lesser option compared to having our local police being part of our schools."
Laura Willey said she believed students were more likely to take a police officer seriously.
"I also feel they would be more likely to report threats or crimes to an officer than a security guard," she said. "When we were in high school we did not take the 'security guard' seriously at all."
Brighton Patch reader Pam Marshall said the idea of a police officer in schools makes her feel less safe.
"The fact anyone even feels the need for an officer doesn't make me feel good about the situation," she said.
What do you think? Does a Police Liaison Officer make you feel safer sending your child to school?