Loudon County sheriff seeks four school resource officers

By Hugh G. Willett knoxnews.com

Loudon County Sheriff Tim Guider has requested funding from the Loudon County Commission for four additional school resource officers.

Guider told the County Commission’s budget committee this week that added officers would enable his office to staff each of the nine county schools.

The cost to the county would be about $280,000 per year, he said.

The primary purpose of the officers is to provide increased security, Guider said. He said he believes the presence of additional officers will help make schools safer.

“Obviously, it’s not a guarantee, but I certainly believe it’s a deterrent,” he said.

The $280,000 request would cover training and equipment but not the cost of vehicles. The SROs would not be assigned new vehicles, he said.

The Sheriff’s Office has one SRO assigned to cover three schools in the city of Loudon following a vote last year by the city council to cut funding for Loudon city police officers in the schools.

The proposal has the backing of school board members and school administrators.

Schools director Jason Vance said he would welcome the additional officers in the schools.

“I think it’s a great thing,” said Scott Newman, school board member and a sergeant with the Loudon Police Department.

Newman said he believes every school in the county should have at least one school resource officer. Larger campuses such as North Middle School might need two, he said.

County Commission budget committee member Don Miller said he supports the idea of putting an SRO in every school but hates having to spend the money. He said he would rather put the money straight into education but safety has to come first.

“I hate to say it, but it’s a sign of the times. Children are our most precious asset. We have to protect them first,” he said.

He said he has been hoping the state or federal government would help local governments with the cost of extra security at schools.

“I would hope they could help. Almost every county is doing this now,” he said.

Miller said the additional funding might be included in the budget for next year or even amended to this year’s budget. He said the lead time to hire and train new officers is significant. The commission may want to move quickly on funding to make sure the SROs are in place for the start of the 2013-14 school year.

Commissioner Sharon Yarbrough said she would support the increased cost of having an officer in every school. She said she would also like to see improvements in the physical security at the schools and at all county buildings.

In the long term, the county is also going to have to look at the causes of crime and violence, she said.

“Just pouring more money into security isn’t the answer,” she said.