Montgomery School board approves police officer hire
MONTGOMERY – Last month, the Montgomery Area School District board voted unanimously to approve Joseph Akers as the district’s school police officer.
Akers, who is retiring from the state police force, will assume his duties Jan. 11
In conjunction with Akers’ hiring, the district will petition the Court of Common Pleas to approve his appointment as the district’s school police officer.
“We will have our own police force,” said Daphne Bowers, district superintendent.
In the past, the district has had a school resource officer through an agreement with the Montgomery Borough.
“The difference between school resource officer, like we’ve had in the past – that’s a working officer who’s attended training for school resource officer – they are currently a part-time officer somewhere and then they become school resource underneath their duties. We no longer have that,” she explained.
“The other option available to schools now is the court appoints – and it is often a retired state police officer. The legislation was written that way – they appoint an officer to have arresting powers to a certain point within the school. Therefore the school starts its own police force. He will be our police officer, but we will be designing and developing our own force through that,” she added.
Bowers noted that other schools in the area with similar programs are Loyalsock Township and Warrior Run.
Akers will also be able to carry a firearm as part of his duties.
“We held interviews. We interviewed specifically for a retired state police officer because of all of the certifications and all of the qualifications that they possess under the legislation. One of them is the firearms training that they receive,” Bowers said. She added that Akers is a firearms trainer.
“So, he is so highly qualified for the job. I feel very fortunate that we were able to appeal to someone with his background and qualifications,” she said.
Bowers noted that by choosing to have a school police officer instead of a school resource officer she feels that the district has really come full circle.
“Years and years ago, the state used to provide resource officers to schools. They were State Police officers and they were working overtime. So the schools paid the overtime. We had three hours a week. It was minimal. At that time, that program was removed, some of the people we met with at the time said we’re looking for schools to start their own police force and I thoughtthis was quite a few years agoto start my own police force. Well, here we are,” she added.
“I think it’s going to be a positive now that we have someone the caliber of Joe Akers. To have that person as a full-time employee of the school, it gives us so much more time. It gives him the ability to make true relationships with kids and to have an impact in the environment,” she said, adding that he will be involved at all levels in the district.
She said that plans are to file the petition with the court immediately for Akers appointment. She also noted that although one of Akers responsibilities will be to train event workers, there are no plans at the moment to expand the district’s police force.
The next board meeting will be at 7 p.m. Jan. 21 at the Administrative Board Room, 120 Penn St.