0

Contract for more police presence in schools pending

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

The Clayton County School System could see a beef-up police presence at all of its schools, if the Board of Commissioners approves a new School Resource Officer (SRO) contract at its next meeting.

Since December 2007, the school district has been negotiating with county officials for more SROs for its alternative school, 14 middle schools and eight high schools. During the 2007-08 school year, the county provided 18 SROs to the district.

The Clayton County Board of Education unanimously approved the proposed SRO contract on July 25, at a called board meeting. The contract calls for the Clayton County Police Department to add up to 25 SROs; four truancy officers; one commander; two supervisors and one detective, who will conduct investigations when necessary.

Each high school has its own SRO, but in several cases, the middle school SROs must cover more than one school. School officials want one SRO per middle school.

Eldrin Bell, chairman of the Clayton County Board of Commissioners, said the commission will vote on the proposed contract during an Aug. 5 business meeting.

"I will be happy to sit down with them [school system officials] to make sure they have the resources needed to protect our children," Bell said.

Julie Lewis, the school system's legal counsel, said the goal is to increase the number of police personnel to one SRO in each middle and high school.

The school system will pay 80 percent of the annual salaries for the law enforcement personnel, since they will spend 10 months of the year in the schools, Lewis said. They will spend the other two months performing duties for the county.

Lewis also said the county will be responsible for training the officers. The school system will not provide cars for the officers, despite earlier discussions about getting the district to pay for those vehicles, the attorney added.

The district has had SROs in the schools since 1993. The SROs enforce local and state laws, act as role models for the students, garner tips on gang activity, and teach Gang Resistance Education and Training (G.R.E.A.T.) in the middle schools.

The Forest Park and Riverdale police departments each provided two officers, but those officers are assigned to schools within their respective cities.