Searsport selectmen, town manager, chief of police and superintendent of Regional School Unit 20 met April 27, together with several residents, to discuss a proposal to hire a full-time school resource officer.

"What can police provide and what can we expect for service?" Selectman Jack Merrithew asked.

The position would be split between working half of the year in the RSU 20 schools (elementary, middle and high school) and the other half for the town of Searsport.

As for service within the schools, they would not be require to do "hall or lunch duties" but could be used in disciplinary situations, offering a different angle, RSU 20 Superintendent Chris Downing said.

They would also work on security issues.

"Check things out and suggest ideas, give kids an opportunity to bring things up," Downing said.

"Kids will see the officer in a different light," he said. "The officer will see kids on a different level, too. They will become part of the culture themselves."

"Many times, kids don't know where to turn for legal advice," Downing said. "A resource officer can help."

Searsport Police Chief Richard LaHaye said, "It's all about relationship building and, most importantly, keeping students and property safe … relationships you build last for the rest of their lives."

The need to find someone who is a good fit was echoed by both Town Manager James Gillway and LaHaye.

Gillway said he would be opposed to bringing someone in "that's going to lay down the law."

"Finding someone that is appropriate is paramount," he said.

LaHaye explained he was a resource officer at one point, working with other officers, who, he later would realize, were assigned to the position not at their request.

"This is not what we're looking for. They need to be engaged," the chief said. "I will know if this person is a good fit or not."

Joe Greenier of Stockton Springs expressed his reservations with a uniformed officer with a weapon at the school.

"Whenever there's a gun, there's a problem with getting the gun. This opens the door for other issues," he said.

Gillway said, "The first time you are there, you explain why you look the way you do — and talk about the uniform."

"The uniform is respected," Downing said.

"There will be some distrust initially," LaHaye said. "Why is there a policeman with a gun?"

Selectman Mark Bradstreet said, "If there ever was an active shooter, I would hope the resource officer has a weapon."

A Stockton Springs resident echoed the thought: "I would rather see a resource officer with a weapon than a teacher."

A RSU 20 teacher commented, "I would like to have kids see a resource officer in a positive light."

The RSU 20 Board of Directors will decide whether to move forward with the proposed position. According to Gillway, Searsport has set some money aside, and Stockton Springs would be "on the hook for a quarter of the financing."

Searsport has "made a commitment" and will continue to explore grants to save money, he said.