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An open – and safe – campus: Sauk plans to bring in deputy to beef up security

DIXON – In the wake of the May 16 shooting at Dixon High School, Sauk Valley Community College is pursuing a school resource officer from the Lee County Sheriff’s Department.

Sheriff John Simonton said Wednesday that he was contacted by college leadership about a month ago about having a deputy stationed at Sauk. If approved, the deputy would begin Dec. 1, the start of the county’s next fiscal year.

The deputy’s title likely won’t be school resource officer, which is used in K-12 schools, but the security concept is the same.

Sauk has a security office with unarmed personnel, and the deputy would supplement campus security, not replace what’s already in place, Sauk President Dave Hellmich said.

The college would pay for the deputy’s salary, benefits, training and equipment from money earmarked for security. That cost is yet to be determined, Hellmich said.

Armed security is common at colleges: Some have armed security officers or contract with security agencies, others have their own police departments or, as in this case, enter into intergovernmental agreements with community law enforcement.

“From a monetary standpoint, we’re not out anything,” Simonton said, adding that the county in fact will benefit by having an extra deputy who will return to patrol duty during summer months.

A 5-year contract is being finalized and will be presented to the Sauk and county boards in the next month or so.

“It’s not some short-term, knee-jerk reaction,” Hellmich said. “We’re trying to balance the security needs of students, faculty and staff with the open college campus concept.”

The county’s public safety, health and judicial committee signed off on the new hire Wednesday, and the measure will go to the finance committee and County Board.

Sauk also plans to increase active-shooter training at the college.

The Dixon City Council recently signed off on renewing its contract with the School District to have school resource officers at Dixon High and Reagan Middle schools, with expenses split down the middle.

On the morning of May 16, 19-year-old DHS senior Matthew A. Milby Jr. opened fire in a school hallway with a 9mm semi-automatic rifle near the gym filled with about 180 of his classmates practicing for graduation.

Milby fired at gym teacher Andrew McKay, then took off running when confronted by school resource officer Mark Dallas, who chased him outside. Milby shot at Dallas, and Dallas returned fire, striking him in the shoulder and the hip. No others were injured.

Milby is being held on $2 million bail and pleaded not guilty to three felonies involving aggravated discharge of a firearm.

Two, which involve shots fired at a person, are punishable by a mandatory 10 to 46 years in prison, and the third, which involves firing shots at a school, by 6 to 30 years.

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