School jurisdiction creates problems

POWHATAN – Powhatan Elementary has been built out of the jurisdiction of Powhatan Point. This not only affects the town but the police department as well.

The elementary school was built in York Township.

“This affects the town in many different ways. It will affect us financially,” said Powhatan Point Mayor Mark McVey. “We collected revenue from the employees at the Powhatan school. We will no longer collect those fees, I’m not sure of the exact number … but it’s substantial.”

Another issue that McVey pointed out was the school could have an issue with a school resource officer (SRO). In the past, Powhatan would provide an officer to act as a SRO for the elementary.

“We provided a police officer to the Powhatan school while they were in our jurisdiction,” said McVey. “… It was a separate contract through the school with the police department, the school paid for them but the key is our police officers had arresting power in the event something happened down there, they had the actual ability to arrest. Now that (the school) is outside the jurisdiction of Powhatan Point, (the police department) does not have arresting powers.”

The Powhatan Elementary is now in the jurisdiction of the Belmont County Sheriff’s Department. Powhatan Police can not arrest or answer a call without permission from the sheriff’s department.

“Jurisdiction applies more to the courts then it does police departments. The Ohio Revised Code actually says police officers may enforce the laws on roads adjacent to their jurisdiction,” said Powhatan Police Chief Joshua J. Haught. “The jurisdictional issue is more towards the courts … We can respond to Powhatan Elementary if there is an issue. Any emergency event we can and will respond to since we are the closet agency.”

Since the school is in the sheriff’s jurisdiction, the sheriff’s department, if they can not respond, would then have to call and ask someone else to respond. This could cause a time lapse issue, since the police department has to wait for the okay to respond.

“Even thought we have the authority to arrest anywhere in Ohio, we really try not to step on another agency’s toes. With Powhatan Elementary being outside of our jurisdiction, we more than likely wouldn’t handle any problems that they might have. That’s not to say that we don’t keep an eye on it. We try to patrol the area just in case the Sheriff’s Department might need us to respond there,” said Patrolman Jason West, who has been with the Powhatan Police Department for six months.

“That’s the great thing about the Ohio Valley. Most of the agencies around here like to assist other agencies as often as possible. When the sheriff’s department has a call that a deputy might not be able to respond to in a timely manner, they never hesitate to request a Powhatan officer to look into it until they are able to arrive. That’s how it is all over the valley. Everyone works together. It’s a beautiful thing.”

One perk the Switzerland of Ohio Local School Board plans if the levy is passed is place a school resource officer in every school.