Differing police presences at metro football games Friday night

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DES MOINES, Iowa — We’re nearing the end of the high school football season, and two metro school districts have taken very different approaches to keep fans safe in the stands.

When Valley takes on Dowling at Valley Stadium, fans will notice 11 West Des Moines police officers including three school resource officers.

It used to be a similar scenario for Des Moines Public Schools when resource officers would be assigned to work each high school football game and they would get assistance from off-duty officers. That all changed when the district ended its resource officer contract with the Des Moines Police Department.

Before the season started, district leaders said they will continue to work with police and utilize off-duty officers. To this point, no officers have worked at any game.

“Our primary function is keeping our patrol shift staffed, so those numbers have sometimes created an obstacle,” Sgt. Paul Parizek with DMPD said, “and then the second obstacle is that some of the things the district said publicly about our officers’ negative impact on their students kind of created an atmosphere where we’re not real sure that our presence is real welcome there.”

Sgt. Parizek said the department has had calls for service at football games that they’ve had to dedicate resources to, but relying just on the patrol response can create some challenges.

“I think everybody would agree that the presence of a police officer certainly enhances security,” Sgt. Parizek said. “It doesn’t solve all the problems, it certainly does help prevent some problems.”

DMPS Superintendent Thomas Ahart sent a statement that read: “We have been unsuccessful in hiring DMPD off-duty officers to work our football games this year, which we had planned to do. We have created our own internal plan that we are comfortable with and continue to explore other resources to support public safety at district events.”

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