Lenoir City hoping to add school officer

Stephanie Myers-News-Herald

Following in the footsteps of Loudon County, Lenoir City Schools hopes to add a third school resource officer to equip each of its three schools.

The school system and Lenoir City Police Department have wanted to make the move the past couple years, Mike Sims, supervisor of support services, said.

LCPD recently applied for a U.S. Department of Justice grant that would fund a third SRO for three years. The elementary and middle schools currently share an SRO, while another is stationed full time at the high school.

"I hope we get the third one," Sims said. "Officer (Scott) Brewster has been doing elementary and middle school, and he is constantly moving all the time. He's there when they take up school at the elementary school. He gets here when the buses start coming in at the middle school, and then he is back over there at dismissal at 1:30 p.m. and 2:45 p.m.

"He's back over here at 3:15 p.m. for dismissal here (at the middle school), so he moves a lot ...," he said.

Sims said a candidate will attend SRO training in June in case the position is approved.

The grant would cover 75 percent of the officer's salary and the school system would pick up the remaining 25 percent, Sims said.

Police Chief Don White said the city has a "good shot" at the grant.

"The funding in our city budget hasn't been there (in the past) as well as the school budget, so this will certainly offset that expenditure and allow us to get that third officer in there," White said. "We just actually tried to work it into our budget for this next fiscal year, and it just wasn't possible. And then we were pleased to hear there was new grant funding available, and that was several weeks ago."

Grant awards will be announced by Sept. 30, White said.

The average cost of adding one SRO runs about $50,000 a year, including salary, benefits and insurance.

"We could possibly reapply for the grant in hopes of receiving more funding, but my goal would probably be to immediately start working to find a way to fund that," White said about plans after the grant runs out in three years. "That would basically give us three years for the city and the school system to find funding to continue on with that third position."

Both Sims and Superintendent Jeanne Barker said extra law enforcement in the schools would be a plus for students.

"I just think it puts everybody at ease to see that uniformed officer and to know that we've got that extra layer of protection," Barker said. "I would love to have a third officer."

Loudon County Schools will have SROs in each of its nine schools next school year after commission passed an amendment to the 2012-13 budget to approve a Loudon County Sheriff's Office request to add four SRO positions and three courtroom deputies.

"If you get the right person out there I think it has a huge impact on our students and parents," Sims said. "If you drive up to a building, and there is an SRO there opening that door for your child to get out of the car, then they know the kid's safe. Now, one officer isn't going to save the world, but it sure is a deterrent, and it's a positive, safe effect for parents."