Al Klemm: The Situation with SROs

Published 3:22 pm Thursday, December 28, 2023

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By: Al Klemm

School Resource Officers (SROs) first appeared in all Beaufort County Schools (BCS) in 2015 when Ernie Coleman was sheriff. There were a few earlier in the high schools when Alan Jordan was sheriff. They are now a permanent fixture in all schools.

They provide a law enforcement presence, a law enforcement vehicle in a prominent location on campus and the dedicated work of the SROs. This is a deterrent to violence on campus and a warning to others that may come on campus and cause violence. With the escalating violence in society, I believe they are a necessity.

Initially BCS worked with and had a contract with the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office. There were some problems. It was difficult to recruit SROs and often an SRO was off campus performing work for the Sheriff’s Office.

This was mostly due to the shortage of deputies within the sheriff’s department and work that had to be done. SROs are often deputies with additional training.

At the end of the contract, the Sheriff’s Office and BCS could not come to a new agreement. AlliedUniversal prepared and submitted a 3-year Security Professional Service Agreement that was accepted by BCS. The agreement ends in August 2024.

BCS, the Sheriff’s Office and parents favor the Sheriff’s Office as the provider of the SROs and the services they provide. It really has nothing to do with the quality of service provided by AlliedUniversal. It’s a desire to have the local Sheriff’s Office provide the service.

In my opinion, it merges the SROs with the Sheriff’s Office and provides a centralized law enforcement initiative, not one that is fractured. It also creates a team environment which is beneficial. One leader for both.

The $513,000 approved by the Board of Commissioners is to recruit, train and equip 12 SROs. It is a lot of money but it will not all be spent because of the difficulty in recruiting SROs. The Sheriff’s Office is presently 6 deputies short of what is budgeted. Recruiting has always been a problem and pay has been a contributing factor. The $513,000 is the maximum Sheriff Hammonds could spend.

I have performed work in safety and government compliance for almost 30 years and I never saw a need develop so quickly. SROs are still evolving. There are many descriptions of what they are and what they do. It’s up to BCS and Sheriff Hammonds to determine what an SRO is and what they do to be most effective in Beaufort County Schools.

Sheriff Hammonds has a difficult task but he says he can get it done. He has done well as an elected sheriff and has already accomplished many things. This is a huge effort and I do believe there will be challenges along the way. I am hopeful that he will succeed.