Jonesboro unsure about providing SROs

Questions abound about who would pay for officers

— Jonesboro leaders are sitting on the fence about whether they will provide school resource officers to Clayton County schools — if any are requested.

The school system had used sheriff’s deputies as SROs for the last few years, but Sheriff Victor Hill decided to end that practice at the end of the current school year. That has put the system in a situation of deciding how it will provide security at its schools in the future.

The council did not collectively say it would refuse to provide SROs if the system asked for them although some individual members spoke against the idea. Since the issue came up at a work session, no vote was taken on the matter.

However, they did express concerns about who would pay the officers’ salaries, who would pay for their training and what would be done with the officers when school was out of session.

“At this time, I would not be in favor of us getting involved in that,” said Councilman Bobby Wiggins. “The last time, when one of our officers had legal action the school board wasn’t willing to back them up and I’m not sure they ever fulfilled their contract with a vehicle or not.”

At this point, it is not clear the city would have to provide officers to the system. Jonesboro Mayor Joy Day said it is just one option the district is looking at to address its SRO issue.

If the district went that route, the city would have to provide up to five officers for schools located inside the town limits.

“We would do the hiring and we would do the majority of the supervising, but they would be footing the bill,” Day said.

The mayor said system officials are also considering starting up their own police force. Some council members said Clayton County schools might be better off going in that direction if it is planning to re-imburse the city for officers.

“I think it would be cheaper for the district to hire their own officers,” said Councilman Wallace Norrington.

Day added that she could see district creating its police force at some point in future because of the growth of the system. It is one of the six largest districts in the state. It peers in a group sometimes collectively known as “The Big Six” because they are the state’s largest school systems are Atlanta Public Schools and Cobb County, DeKalb County, Fulton County and Gwinnett County schools.

Cobb, DeKalb, Fulton and Gwinnett schools have their own police forces. Media reports indicate Atlanta Public Schools is considering following suit.

But, if the district opts to not follow its peers, Day said it should be ready to bear the costs of contracting SROs from Jonesboro.

“I think it should be a non-cost to the city because it’s a service provided to the school system and without that I wouldn’t be willing to commit the city to anything,” she said.