For sheriff’s Deputy Scott Streltzoff, a typical patrol duty once involved motoring around the streets of Spokane Valley.
Now, it consists of patrolling the campus of East Valley High School.
For the past three years, Streltzoff has served as the school resource deputy at EVHS, one of four personnel from the Spokane Valley Police Department assigned to local school districts. Deputies are also in place at West Valley, Central Valley school districts. An additional trio are assigned through the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office at Mead, Mt. Spokane high schools and between the Liberty and Freeman school districts.
For Streltzoff, the job entails everything from addressing crimes like drug possession, fights and theft to educating students about staying on a constructive path.
“I see myself as a mentor,” he said. “I think I’m able to make a difference in their lives.”
East Valley added a resource deputy in 2006, with Scott Kenoyer serving at the high school until 2009. Streltzoff said prior to the district hiring a full-time deputy, patrol officers in the area would respond to issues in the district, often taking away from their responsibilities in the community.
In January 2006, the Spokane Valley City Council voted 5-1 to fund the bulk of the East Valley deputy’s salary – school districts are required to cover one-third of the cost – even though the district maintains buildings in both city and Spokane County limits. The city’s portion of the funding was transferred from the county beginning in 2007.
During the deliberations over funding, Spokane Valley Police Chief Cal Walker appeared before the City Council to emphasize his support of the idea, calling the addition of a resource officer “absolutely vital.” Walker pointed to the success of other such programs in the area and said resource deputies are able to identify criminal activity early on by being part of the campus environment.
In the Central Valley School District, both University and Central Valley high schools have a permanent deputy with an office on campus. The district covers $37,000 of the cost annually for the two deputies with the revenue coming from the three-year replacement levy. In addition, the district pays 100 percent of the cost to employ two resource officers to supplement safety and security efforts.
“I think it’s one of the best decisions a school district can make,” said CVHS Principal Mike Hittle. “When the deputies are based at the high school, it means they can talk to the students and be advisors.”
Deputies attend administrative meetings, assemblies and afterschool events in addition to their regular duties throughout the school day.
“They really are an important part of our team on campus,” Hittle said.
Spokane Valley Police Chief Rick Van Leuven said the resource deputy program can have a critical impact that goes beyond high school.
“It’s much like a teacher in that they can inspire students to lead productive lives and point them back in the right direction when they may be going down a criminal path,” Van Leuven said.
Streltzoff said he has had students return to the school after graduation to thank him for advice and support they received. Resource deputies will also file reports regarding suspected cases of abuse or neglect of a student with Child Protective Services.
“Intervention on many levels is a key part of it,” said Van Leuven. “These deputies are making a difference.”