Bethel City Council To Weigh School Officer Position
During their Sept. 14 meeting, the Bethel City Council will introduce an ordinance to put a police officer in the high school. The position would be funded by the Lower Kuskokwim School District and a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice.
Bethel Chief of Police Richard Simmons said that he already has an officer in mind. His name is Chris Wigner, and the police chief has already stationed him in the school.
“We're already having him over there sort of introducing himself around and starting to make friends,” said Simmons.
Chief Simmons said that he wants the officer in the school to be a seasoned one, and that Wigner has been working with the Bethel force for five years.
Simmons said that the officer’s primary tasks will be to provide security in the high school and prevent crime. He said that he hopes stationing an officer in the school will give the students a positive example of what a relationship with an officer can look like.
“It's good for kids, there at the school, to meet officers in a capacity other than us being in their living room at night having to arrest a parent, or a cousin, or having to fight somebody out in the front yard that's drunk. It's good that they see us as the people we are, and that they are able to have normal relationships with us,” said Simmons.
Simmons said that the school officer will be a fully-equipped officer with a badge and gun who will be able to make arrests if needed. He also said that Wigner will be there in the case of "overt danger." He referenced the 1997 Bethel Regional High School Shooting, in which student Josh Palacios and principal Ron Edwards were killed.
The officer’s position is expected to be introduced during the Sept. 14 meeting, and is expected to go to a vote during the following city council meeting on Sept. 28. Simmons also said that the new position needs to be approved by the LKSD School Board.
An earlier version of this story said the BRHS School Shooting was in 1998. That is incorrect. It was in 1997.