JACKSON CO., Ala. (WHNT) — The Jackson County Commission says putting resource officers in the county’s district schools is one of its first priorites, but there’s several hurdles it will have to overcome.
School resource officers are absent from the county’s 18 schools in its district. However, it’s not because county leaders don’t feel they are necessary or don’t want them. On the contrary, county officials say they would like to see resource officers in schools for the benefits they would provide students. The reason why the officers aren’t present is because of a nearly one million dollar deficit looming over the County Commission.
Commission Chair Matthew Hodges says right now they’re doing everything they can to eliminate that deficit, so he says until they can do that, having resource officers at each of the district’s 18 schools isn’t feasible. “I don’t see that that’s something that we can put money into when we’ve still got so many cuts that we’re going to have to make,” Hodges says.
A newly hired deputy to serve as a school resource officer comes with hefty price tag. Jackson County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Rocky Harnen says that price tag is about 70 thousand dollars. “Yearly cost, which is about 31, 32 thousand dollars a year. Then there’s some one time expenses like weapons, equipment, car, that’s about another 40 thousand dollars, one time expense,” Chief Deputy Harnen says.
The Commission says it is looking at ways to get around that cost. “We’ve talked a little with the school system about participating with them, and trying to put some dollars together between the school system, the county and the legislative delegation and coming up with a way to do that,” Hodges says.
Between those entities, Hodges says they might be able to get officers in schools. He says a discussion to determine if that plan is a possibility is in the works. Another option he says they’ve talked about is hiring part-time deputies. However, Hodges says a part-time official wouldn’t provide the protection they would like to see for the students.
Chief Deputy Harnen says deputies do patrols around the schools during their shifts.
Hodges says putting full-time resource officers in the county’s schools is one of their priorities the Commission would like to see solved.