Sheriff checking about LMS SRO

Friday, April 1, 2011

Lewisburg Middle School might have a school resource officer from the Sheriff's Department in a couple of weeks, according to statements from the sheriff and a county commission vote.

County commissioners voted 15-2 on Monday for an agreement with the School Board to have a deputy serve as an SRO at LMS. The two no votes were against unbudgeted spending. Sessions Court Judge Steve Bowden found a program to help pay for an SRO.

"One deputy has put in for it," Sheriff Norman Dalton said Wednesday when he declined to name the applicant. "I'm going to introduce him to the principal and schools director," Randy Hubbell and Roy Dukes.

The agreement approved by commissioners "has to go back to the school board for ratification," Dalton said, anticipating that on April 11.

LMS has been without an SRO since reassignment of its first officer who came to the school through an agreement with Lewisburg city councilmen who authorized a city policeman to work at the school. Given the age of the students and that LMS hosts the alternative school, there's been general agreement among community leaders that the middle school needs an SRO. Lewisburg withdrew financial support because of declining revenue during the recession.

The nine-page agreement between the two county departments notes that the SRO program started in this county on Feb. 1, 1999 with funding from the federal Safe Schools Act of 1998, and that SROs have continued at the Forrest School, Cornersville and Marshall County High schools.

In another program to combat juvenile delinquency, Bowden found $36,850, Dalton told the school board in February. To further the program, Bowden signed an order designating the money to outfit an SRO.

"All the school board has to do is come up with the salary," Dalton said at the time.

The schools director added that he had spoken with county Budget Director Freda Terry and learned that the annual salary and benefits for an officer with eight to 10 years' experience could be about $42,500.

"We have $27,750 in the budget now," Dukes said.

The middle school has been without an SRO this school year.

After the school board asked the sheriff to provide an SRO for LMS, the reply noted that the officer's patrol car, weapons, uniform and other equipment would cost $69,350, plus the first year's pay. That was too much for the school board's budget.

Now, with additional funding and a recognized need -- even though it's at the end of the school year -- it would appear that the officer might be able to start right after approval from the board, as indicated by the sheriff in February.

Much of the agreement specifies technical aspects of the officer's working arrangements such as hours, law enforcement duties, limits in accordance with school policies and standing law. SROs remain employees of the sheriff.

The sheriff, or his designated officer, assigns duties to the SRO who is selected after an interview with the principal, the sheriff and a member of the schools' central office. Together, they make the assignment for the deputy.