For the first time in about 15 years, a school resource officer will be available for students, staff and parents in Brookings-Harbor School District.

The city council Monday night agreed to enter into a memorandum of understanding and pay half the bill for a police officer to provide a presence on the school grounds in hopes of deterring crime and improving the image students might have of law enforcement. The school district approved the memorandum two days later.

The cost to the city and school district is $55,000 each for the annual salary and equipment. The five-year agreement begins March 1, with a goal to have a full-time officer on school grounds next fall.

The officer must undergo training this spring and will begin working part-time.

“The main role of an effective SRO can be summarized as prevention, but they are also available to reach out to in any safety situations that may occur,” Superintendent Sean Gallagher said. “In addition, law enforcement is an excellent career pathway for students to consider, and the physical presence of an SRO will most likely provide opportunities for students to explore this path.”

“An SRO can be a deterrent to criminals entering our schools as well as criminal behavior by those on campus,” Police Chief Kelby McCrae told the city council last week. “They are a liaison who builds a relationship with the students, parents and staff and someone the students can learn to turn to with questions.

“The SRO acts as a counselor, role model and mentor who embodies someone who can be trusted. This can hopefully translate to all Brookings Police Department officers outside the schools to develop good working relationships with youth so officers are seen as someone who can help.”

McCrae said up to 1,800 people can be in the two blocks that are home to Kalmiopsis Elementary, Azalea Middle and Brookings-Harbor High schools at any given time.

“Our ultimate hope is to provide a positive role model long-term that translates to all officers in the Brookings Police Department,” McCrae told the council. “We want (students to know) officers are someone who can help them, not someone to be afraid of. They’ll see officers in public and feel the same way.”

Mayor Jake Pieper agreed, saying bringing an SRO into the school district has been a long time coming.

“It could really be big,” he said. “It’s an amazing, strange thing how some youth view law enforcement. To break that — you’re talking to someone with a badge, but they’re still just somebody. Somebody’s dad, somebody’s mom.”

Councilor Bill Hamilton reiterated his desire that the cost be split between the city, school district and county, as many students hail from outside the city limits — and indeed, even as far south as Smith River, California.