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Hurdles remain to add SROs
Jan 12, 2013 12:00 am
By Jared Felkins
Adding 12 additional school resource officers to fill the void in Lebanon and Wilson County schools comes with a hefty price tag, but local leaders admit it can be done and could be much worse.
Sheriff Robert Bryan said Friday he presented costs and other roadblocks standing in the way of adding new SROs into city and county schools to provide at least one officer at each school Thursday night at the Wilson County Law Enforcement Committee meeting.
“I presented the figures to the committee last night on what it would cost per officer and how many officers we needed,” Bryan said. “The committee overwhelmingly approved it and passed on to the budget committee.
“It’s going to be a funding issue. If they approve funding to put SROs in each school, I will try to get them hired, but it’s not going to happen overnight.”
Bryan said an estimated $678,000 is needed annually to pay salaries and benefits for 12 additional school resource officers. SRO division Capt. Gary Keith said Thursday each SRO gets nearly $57,000 in pay and benefits each year, and neither figure includes about $11,000 in startup costs to provide officers with initial training, uniform, vehicle, etc.
Bryan said another hurdle includes staffing. He said specialized SRO training is needed, and he can’t just assign any officer to a school.
“I can’t take from my current certified positions,” Bryan said. “I would have to put uncertified people in place to begin their training. I have already reserved spots for that in case this does happen.”
Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto also attended Thursday’s Law Enforcement Committee meeting and echoed Bryan’s concerns. He said the issue next goes to the Budget Committee, which meets Thursday.
“Last night at our law enforcement committee meeting, we talked about it. We said it’s important when we talk to people about the need for this that we have the funding in place.
“I think everyone is on board to make this a reality. That is our goal, and to get it done between now and May. In the next board of education and even city council meetings, you may hear more about this.”
Hutto’s hopeful funding could come from Safe Schools or Homeland Security grants. He’s also hopeful that if the state legislature mandates an SRO at each school during the current session, funding would come from the state.
“You always hope that if there is a mandate, there would be a funding mechanism attached to it,” Hutto said. “I think it’s an issue of security and stability.”
Both Hutto and Bryan agreed Wilson County is ahead of the curve compared to other counties when it comes to SROs. Hutto said Wilson was the second county in the state to start an SRO program more than 20 years ago.
“We’re not having to do 38 like Sumner County or 20 like Rutherford County,” Bryan said. “That’s a big difference in the number of officers we need to fund, and that’s because of the steps my predecessor took to get this already in place.
Hutto also praised former Sheriff Terry Ashe for initiating the SRO program in Wilson County.
“I’m thankful for Terry Ashe and the former administrations for getting the SROs we have in place,” Hutto said. “These shootings have brought the need to light. I’d like to praise the people who started it, and the people who are making it happen now.”