Sheriff’s Office interested in school system’s request for SRO proposals

Published 1:39 pm Friday, January 29, 2021

The Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office is “very interested” in viewing the request for proposals for school resource officers that Beaufort County Schools is preparing, Chief Deputy Charlie Rose said Thursday.

The Sheriff’s Office currently provides the schools with SROs by way of a memorandum of understanding that is set to expire in June. In November, Sheriff Ernie Coleman told Superintendent that he would terminate that memorandum with 90 days. He said that “defunding” on the part of the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners had cost his department five positions, straining the department’s ability to carry out its statutorily mandated tasks while not having to call in SROs for help with those duties.

The school system has since decided to seek bids from third-party company police forces — although the Sheriff’s Office can submit a bid as well.

“As of the last time I spoke with the sheriff about it, we are very interested in the details that are going to be in the RFP,” Rose told the commissioners during a planning retreat Thursday. “We are going to take a look at every word of that RFP. If that’s a service that we feel we can provide better than any (other) service that can be provided for Beaufort County, as of right now our plan is to submit for that RFP.”

Shortly after he announced his intent to terminate the memorandum, Coleman told the school system to “plan to go in a different direction” beyond Feb. 5. Rose says SROs provided by the Sheriff’s Department will not be pulled from the schools on that date.

“We fully intend to function as SROs, as agreed beyond that 90-day limit,” Rose said. “As long as we are invited into schools, we’re going to have SROs functioning in the schools, until it’s either deemed by the school board that they don’t want us there, or we don’t have the funding to have people there.”

Coleman expanded on those points in a letter he sent in December 2020 to Frankie Waters, chairman of the Board of Commissioners. In the letter, Coleman said the department has only been using SROs for other law enforcement tasks when school isn’t in session.

“When it became clear that we could be held to 102 positions instead of 107 positions we had to formulate a plan to take care of transports, and other law enforcement tasks, that have dramatically increased over the last few years,” Coleman wrote. “We decided that the only plan that made sense was to occasionally use a School Resource Officer during times when school would be in session to complete a task.”