The city of Berwyn has struck a deal with the Berwyn Development Corp. and Morton High School District 201 to add a school resource officer at the Morton West campus.
Members of the Berwyn City Council on July 23 authorized a memorandum of understanding to help make it possible.
Reaching the agreement increases the number of sworn police officers employed by the city from 113 to 114.
The city and its collective bargaining union wanted to memorialize the terms set forth between District 201 and a new school resource officer.
“It’s great for the police department, it’s great for the school, and it’s great for the community,” Berwyn Police Chief Michael Cimaglia said. “A majority of the other high schools in the area have policemen working in there.”
Authorizing the deal brings a school resource officer to District 201 at no cost to the city and ensures that an officer will be on campus at Morton West.
The contract details include a $132,000 base salary with 3% increases annually over the course of 12 years.
“They have to go through the hiring process through the school itself,” Cimaglia said.
As the district has gotten bigger over the years, the city has placed officers at Morton West. However, Morton West did not have a full-time school resource officer.
District 201 Superintendent Tim Truesdale said that assigning the officer to Morton West is not in response to a rise in incidents on campus. Cimaglia agreed, saying that the school resource officer will help build on relations between the police and the community.
School safety has become a hot topic in communities across the nation in recent years.
Previously, the city assigned off-duty, full-time police officers to work on campus at Morton West. The work represented secondary employment for the officers, Cimaglia said.
Under that arrangement, District 201 made payment directly to officers for their service to the school. The new agreement allows funds to be reimbursed to the city through Berwyn Development Corp. and District 201.
“We’re still going to have officers working in the school as secondary employment that are going to be paid directly by the school,” Cimaglia said. “Now we’ll have somebody assigned to the school full time. They can handle incidents that happen at the school.”
The agreement is made possible thanks, in part, to payment from District 201 and tax increment finance (TIF) district funds, which are monies generated by municipalities in accordance to state statute to promote opportunities for redevelopment and reinvestment.
The additional officer will serve as a certified school resource officer. Not all officers are qualified to work in schools.
Cimaglia said a school resource officer is trained in issues concerning juveniles and how to work with them.
The city has taken steps to prepare the district for its new school resource officer at Morton West, setting up a computer in which they can complete reports.
Alderman Jose Ramirez and Alderwoman Jeanine Reardon voted against the proposal.
Ramirez previously was supportive of the intergovernmental agreement associated with the TIF district, which helps provide a school resource officer to District 201.
Ramirez spoke of why he voted no to the memorandum of understanding.
“During the TIF negotiations, it was never disclosed that the deal would add an officer to our police roll, and I feel that this fact should have been brought out and discussed at that time and not months later,” Ramirez said. “I feel it’s just good politics to have all the facts when voting on any measures.”
Reardon did not respond to a request for comment.