School Board Chair, Sheriff Ask County For Funds For More School Resource Officers

By Betsy Finklea

Dillon County Board of Education Chairman Richard Schafer and Dillon County Sheriff Major Hulon came to the Dillon County Council meeting last Wednesday to discuss school safety and the possibility of getting funding for more school resource officers.
Schafer said there are 13 schools and approximately 4,700 students. The school resource officer program has been in the schools for many years and has been very successful. It was started and administrated by the Sheriff’s Office.
“We’ve got to protect these school environments,” said Schafer, who said there was no choice.
Schafer said there were four officers in the system—one at Dillon High School, one at Latta High School, one at Lake View High School, and one at Dillon Middle School. They chose to have one central policing agency as opposed to dealing with various agencies. Schafer said it is an expensive program, but it works. “It’s very effective,” he said.
Schafer said they were here before council to talk about expanding the program.
He said they were in the process of adding three more officers–one at Gordon, one at Latta, and one at the ATEC Center, which will raise the number of officers to seven. Schafer said this will leave all of the elementary schools uncovered.
Schafer said expanding the school resource officer program would not be as expensive as putting controlled access on all of the schools.
Sheriff Major Hulon was the next to speak. He said he met with Schafer, Rep. Jackie Hayes, and Supt. Ray Rogers after the incident in Newtown, Connecticut. He also later met with Supt. John Kirby at the Latta Schools and also Dillon City Manager Glen Wagner, Dillon Police Chief Joe Rogers, and County Council Chairman Archie Scott.
Hulon said he also met with the county school board, who supported trying to do something.
He said the idea would be to form a 50-50 partnership. He said he was really concerned, and he thought they were. Hulon said he needed seven people to have one person in every school.
Hulon said the three that they have added are authorized until July and the county board is picking up the total cost except for the vehicle. He said off-duty officers are covering Gordon and Latta Elementary School. he said this was a temporary arrangement.
Councilman Bobby Moody asked Hulon what he was looking for the county to do. He said that the county school board will pay 50 percent if the county council will pay 50 percent totaling about $150,000 each. Hulon said he would open the positions to Class I officers who are already certified, but the task would be to find seven people.
Councilman Andrew Graves asked if they didn’t have people in the school, especially in the elementary school, who could walk around and patrol. He said he was all in favor of protecting the children in school and the community, but the thought that they had adults who could patrol.
Schafer said after the Newtown, CT incident, they were shocked and they were preparing for something that they do not know the when and where, but they had to be prepared in all situations. “I’m not going to let dollars stop the safety of our children. I’ll find the money one way or the other.” There is a possibility of funds from the state and federal levels, but this hasn’t happened yet. Schafer said that the Sheriff needs to get in a planning situation. “We can’t let a dollar bill stand between us and the safety of these schools.”
Graves said he was not afraid of the money, but with the pay that the teachers get they could sacrifice some of their pay. (After the meeting, Graves clarified to The Herald that he was speaking of administrators not teachers.)
Schafer said that the state sets teacher salaries, and the school doesn’t have the luxury of saying who is going to make what.
When asked by Councilman Joe Johnson, Hulon said that he would need everyone in place by the first of March to have them ready for the school year.
Councilman Buzzy Finklea said it was going to be hard to get a Class I officer to come at that low salary and that it takes 12 weeks for an officer to get through the Criminal Justice Academy. Hulon agreed and said it was going to take time to get things in place, and it can’t be done quickly.
Finklea also asked about vehicles for the officers. Hulon said that they had some spare vehicles that they could use. He said elementary officers did not have the extracurricular activities to travel to like the high school officers.
Chairman Archie Scott said their request had not fallen on deaf ears. They are mid-budget so he said he would have to take it to the budget committee.
He said there was a bill in Columbia that may help with this. The matter was taken as information.

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