All of Rutherford County Schools may soon have School Resource Officers if the County Commission chooses to fund a request from Rutherford County Sheriff Robert Arnold.
Sheriff Robert Arnold holds a press conference Jan. 8, 2012, at the Rutherford County Sheriff's Office in Murfreesboro, Tenn. At the proposed a $1.2 million plan to put at least one School Resource Officer in each county school. (TMP Photo/M. Willard)
"They're kids. They're there to get an education. And we need to be there to protect them," said Arnold, who worked as an SRO in elementary, alternative and high schools in the county before his election.
The former SRO proposed at a press conference Tuesday morning hiring 11 additional SROs, which will put two officers in each high school and one SRO in each elementary, middle, alternative and magnet school in Rutherford County.
The sheriff said the $1.2 million proposal comes at the request of the Public Safety Committee in response to the Newtown, Conn., shooting. He will present his plan to the Budget Committee at its meeting Thursday night. The proposal will then go before the full commission Jan. 17.
The proposal includes benefits, training, equipment and cars for the SROs, who will be promoted from within the Sheriff's Office.
"Being a former SRO, ... I understand the importance of this ..." Arnold said. "We don't want aything to ever happen to our students or our teachers."
Arnold said if the proposal is approved about half of the posts can be filled immediately with former SROs who have expressed interest in returning to schools. But filling the rest of the openings could take time.
"We are putting these people in charge of our greatest resource, so we want to be selective," he said.
Currently there are 44 SROs for 45 Rutherford County Schools, including supervisors, with elementary schools sharing SROs. This has grown from five officers in 1993 when the program started as the first in the state.
"It's not just a cop in the schools," Arnold said, explaining SROs go through specific training from the National Association of School Resource Officers.
SROs provide more than armed security, Arnold said. They also teach classes, counsel students, serve as a role model and coach teams, as well as answer law enforcement calls for assaults, illegal drugs and other crimes on school campuses.
Rutherford County's SRO program has earned several national awards, like the SRO Program of the Year, Model SRO Agency in 2000 and Exemplary School Safety Program in 2010.
Murfreesboro City Schools is not covered in this proposal, but Murfreesboro Police are working on a plan of their own, Arnold said.