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BOC approves school resource officers

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

Earlier this week, the Clayton County Board of Commissioners formerly accepted an agreement with Clayton County Public Schools, authorizing the police department to provide School Resource Officers (SROs) for the county's middle and high schools.

The new contract updates the original school security agreement created in 1993, and spells out the specific financial responsibilities of the county, and the school system.

Under the new agreement, the police department will provide an SRO commander, two supervisors, one detective, four truancy officers, and up to 25 officers, depending on the manpower of the police department. The school system can only use the officers during the 180-day school year. The county will use them during the summer and school holidays.

The contract, however, will require the school system to take on new financial responsibilities. The system's contribution to SRO salaries will increase from 70 percent to 80 percent. For the first time, the school system is required to compensate the county for maintenance and gas used by vehicles assigned to SROs.

Despite the added costs, John Walker, director of school safety for Clayton County Public Schools, said he is pleased with the new contract.

"We enjoy having a healthy working relationship with the Clayton County Police Department," said Walker. "They are very important. They are the criminal justice experts on our campus, and the teachers enforce the school rules, so it's a great partnership."

As of this year, there are 14 middle schools, eight high schools, and one alternative school in the public school system. All of the high schools are currently assigned their own SROs. But Pointe South and Kendrick middle schools, as well as Rex Mill and Adamson middle schools, share an SRO. Walker hopes the new contract will result in every middle school and high school having its own SRO.

Jeff Turner, Clayton County police chief, said the number of SROs will depend on availability in the police department. However, he is confident he will be able hire more officers by taking advantage of large police layoffs in neighboring cities, such as East Point.

"As they have been laid off, they have been looking for police jobs," said Turner. "Our department is attractive, because we have education incentives. We are seeing an influx of more sworn and certified police officers to our department.

"As we continue to bring more police officers into our department, we will continue to staff our schools with full-time officers," said Turner.

The BOC also approved $74,000, to be taken from the police department's drug forfeiture fund, for the purchase of new license-plate readers. The units, which can be mounted on a car, or on a stationary pole, have the ability to read and check the license plates of every car that passes by.

The approved funds will purchase two mobile units and two stationary units that, Turner said, will be placed in high-crime areas of the county.