County: More school officers needed

Published 12:03 am Thursday, December 20, 2012

There is a new push to increase the number of school resource officers in the county schools.

Currently, there is a deputy stationed on the campuses of Straughn, Pleasant Home and Red Level. One deputy splits his time between Florala High School and W.S. Harlan, while Opp Police officers and county deputies “fill in the blank” at Fleeta Jr. High School.

But those numbers aren’t good enough, officials from the county school board, the county commission and the sheriff’s office agreed Wednesday. They met to discuss a multitude of new safety measures in the schools. While the bulk of those changes will not be made public, everyone agreed one of the best deterrents for crime on school property is a school resource officer.

Sheriff Dennis Meeks said he believes an additional four officers are needed – one to man Fleeta Jr. High, one more at PHS and two more at Straughn. In Florala, he said, members of the Florala Police Department can respond to incidents at WSH and FHS.

“A minimum, I think, is two, and definitely one at Fleeta,” said school board member Jeff Bailey.

Now, each side must determine how much they’re willing to commit financially before putting the new SROs in place.

This year, $212,000 is budgeted for the four deputies. The county school board contributes $50,000 a year toward the cost. Superintendent Terry Holley said the board will “gladly pay” the $10,000 to train each new SRO.

Both sides agreed, “to come up with what we can and see what we can do,” for a long-term solution, as Commissioner Harold Elmore suggested.