After more than a decade of sharing a school resource deputy with the Freeman School District, the Liberty School District now has a new, full-time school resource deputy on the rural campus that houses its elementary, middle and high schools.
Deputy Dave Bratton moved into his office in Liberty High School last week and is working to get to know the schools and the students. Superintendent Kyle Rydell said he’s thrilled there will be someone on site every day of the week.
The former shared deputy, Ron Nye, will now cover the Freeman School District full time. Rydell said Nye formed close relationships with the students and the staff in his 11 years split between the two districts, but his schedule was erratic and students never knew when Nye would be there.
“Now we don’t have to worry about that,” he said. “We get the consistency of five days a week as well as Freeman.”
Liberty High School Principal Aaron Fletcher said he likes having Bratton there. “It’s comforting to know I can just pick up the phone or walk down the hall and ask a question and not have to call 911 or Crime Check,” he said.
Fletcher said the students are also excited about the change, though they will miss Nye. “They love having a full-time deputy here,” he said. “The students feel that there’s trust. And it’s not just school things, it’s home things.”
The district is paying the Sheriff’s Office $33,000 a year to have a full-time school resource deputy. When school is not in session, Bratton will work patrol. Spokane County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Deputy Mark Gregory said Commissioner Mary Kuney helped push for extra funding to pay for the county’s portion of the position. “It’s a partnership with the school district,” he said.
Bratton has worked patrol with the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office for 14 years and hasn’t worked as a school resource deputy before. Like most deputies, he joined the department because he wanted to help people.
“This is a job where you really get in there and help kids,” he said. “I actually feel like I can be more helpful (here) than I can on the street.”
Bratton had an unusual route to his law enforcement career. He was a plumber in the Air Force for several years, then worked as a plumber at Eastern State Hospital for 10 years. “I went on a police ride-along, and that was my midlife crisis,” he said.
He attended the police academy at the age of 41 and began his second career with the Sheriff’s Office. He said he was interested in the resource deputy position partly because he is building a house in the district. He also grew up in Deer Park and is used to smaller, rural schools.
“I’m comfortable here,” he said.
Bratton’s office is at the front of the high school with windows looking out on the school entrance. He said he’s reviewed the security at the school, which includes security cameras in each building and a single, secured point of entry.
School shootings are a reality across the country and something Bratton worries about, particularly after the shooting at Freeman High School last year. “I responded to the Freeman call,” he said. “I felt like we had failed. You think of your own kids, too.”
His car is parked prominently in front of the high school entrance. He has a security camera screen in his office and can view multiple cameras at once. There is also a fingerprint-activated rifle safe built into the wall of his office.
“We have one in the car, but if you need it you don’t want to have to run out there,” he said.
But Bratton hopes he will never have to open the safe. “It’s rarely that the deputy comes running down the hall and saves the day,” he said. “It’s all the preventative work. There’s always signs, and we have to pick up on those.”
Bratton has spent his time in the schools getting to know the students. He talked to a middle school assembly, hangs out in the hall during passing periods, sometimes has lunch with students and plans to read to the kindergartners. He’ll also make presentations on various safety issues.
He said when he was going through training for his new job he was convinced that school resource deputies are the unsung heroes of the department and he wants the opportunity to do something really important.
Bratton said he expects his success to be hard to measure because he will be focusing on preventing any incidents from occurring.
“If I’m here for 10 years, and I’m really successful, you won’t know it,” he said.
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