The DeKalb County Board of Education and Commission announced a joint effort to expand the school resource officer unit in the county.
A press conference was called at the DeKalb County Technology Center in Rainsville on Thursday morning for Superintendent Jason Barnett and Commission President Ricky Harcrow to address the public with information on the safety upgrades.
Members of the board of education and commission took part in the conference, answering questions and thanking those that gave way for the expansion.
Barnett said the original grant to bring SROs in the county was awarded in 2000, but the funding was lost. During that time, the commission corroborated with the school system to continue the funding. After years of little funding, the number of SROs in the county decreased to three, but with the help of the commission, funding has allowed the unit to increase to 11 in recent years, Barnett said.
“We have worked very hard with Commission President [Ricky] Harcrow, our board and Matt Sharp who works with the commission, to solicit funding to allow two new SRO officers for DeKalb County Schools, which will put one in every campus we have,” Barnett said.
The two new officers will be stationed at Crossville Elementary and the technology center.
The National Association of Resource Officers describes a resource officer as having three roles in the school system, an educator, an informal counselor and to enforce the law, Barnett said.
“They have a big role and big task, and we’re thankful for the ones that we have,” Barnett said. “I believe it’s the best SRO fleet in the state.”
Harcrow said he has been with the program since its inception and is glad to see it moving forward.
“We’re happy to go into this joint venture with the board of education, and I don’t have the vocabulary to express how important these particular kind of programs are,” Harcrow said.
Continuing the support of the SRO program is not something that is not an option but is necessary, Harcrow said.
Outgoing DeKalb County Sheriff Jimmy Harris said this program has been in the works for years and has slowly reached the level it is at now.
“We had three SRO officers, and when I was on the campaign trail in ‘06, that was one thing that everybody was talking to me about,” Harris said. “We went from three to nine, then to 11 and now we’re adding two more. I want to thank all of y’all that secured this money.”
The timeline for when the officers will be established is unclear, but the ones they hire will have to train in Clanton, Alabama.
“We want to make sure we hire the best person, obviously quick is good, but we want to do our due diligence,” Barnett said. “So, if there are people out there that are interested, we’d be glad to talk. We want to be timely with it, but we want to hire the right person.”
Barnett also said the county is continuously improving security measures throughout the schools, including reducing entry points, automated door systems and their Raptor technology.
“Any person who is checking out a student, they have to show their drivers license and they slide their card,” Barnett said. “It shows up if they have a criminal background, warrants for their arrest if they’re a sex offender, and it will alert the authorities, the SRO and the principal.”
The new measures will now make it easier for the SROs to ensure security on campuses.