Plan to fund more SROs in SC schools welcomed, but some agencies might struggle in hiring

Updated: Sep. 26, 2019 at 11:05 PM EDT
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NEWBERRY, S.C. (WIS) - We are learning more about a plan to keep your kids safe through funding that could put 205 extra school resource officers in schools that need them around the Palmetto State.

The money would be distributed by the South Carolina Department of Education to the law enforcement agencies, but WIS found out that some agencies may have a challenge of meeting that SRO hiring goal.

For the 2019-20 fiscal year, the General Assembly allocated funds to the South Carolina Department of Education for school resource officer placement.

A Department of Education spokesperson said the school districts applied for this funding.

A proviso in the funding states “eligibility the department shall use the most recent index of taxpaying ability as the district's indicator of ability to pay, with districts of the lowest index of taxpaying ability receiving priority consideration.”

Newberry County Sheriff Lee Foster added this process for many will not happen overnight.

“Most law enforcement agencies are extremely short-staffed. Most law enforcement agencies are having a difficult time attracting candidates and then we also have the issue of the time it takes, the necessary time it takes to train officers,” Foster said.

Sheriff Foster said he would like to have a current deputy, already trained, to learn how to be a school resource officer and move to that line of work. Foster said, that way, someone who already has served the community can be entrusted with the safety of children. Foster adds that it would also be a faster process, but the problem is, what happens with that person’s position?

“So, if you have to either back fill or higher somebody that doesn't have a certification and get them certified, it's going to be close to a year before that person is trained and ready to go out and do the job," Foster said. "It's a brilliant idea. I love it, but the problem we're having is -- and you won't find very many law enforcement leaders that won't tell you -- we just can't get people to come want to be a police officer, want to be a sheriff's deputy, want to be a corrections officer."

While The Lexington County Sheriff’s Department did not want to comment yet on the school resource officer funding, the challenge of hiring and retention is something they have felt as well.

A spokesperson for the Department of Education said the funding will stay around for use, if and when law enforcement agencies can get someone to a school full time. Agencies can also receive partial funding for the placements that they can do.

The South Carolina Department of Education said they have set January 3 as a date to know what law enforcement agencies and districts will not be able to provide an officer at all, to better understand the need before the legislative session.

A spokesperson said they are open to working with agencies and districts individually to find the best way to fill their needs using the available funding.

To see how many new school resource officers have been allocated to your school district, read the document below.

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