School Resource Officers needed in all IOW schools

Published 9:44 am Wednesday, May 11, 2016

To the Editor:

In 2007, the Board of Supervisors initiated placing SROs in all nine schools as a safeguard against an extremely violent act in Isle of Wight, as occurred in a Pennsylvania school. Sheriff [Charlie] Phelps placed an SRO in each school each year thereafter thru 2011.To provide funding, the Supervisors put $340,000 initially and annually thereafter in Sheriff’s budget.

Sheriff [Mark] Marshall in 2012 removed SROs from all schools except the high and middle schools, leaving the elementary schools of Carrollton, Carrsville, Hardy and Windsor largely “unprotected.”

These four schools are somewhat remotely located in sparsely populated areas, thus more vulnerable to anyone/group bent on mayhem as has occurred at schools elsewhere in our USA since 2007, costing the lives of students and teachers/administrators.

To his credit, Mark has had “road deputies” passing thru check-in periodically during the school day. This is 1 percent protection vs. 99 percent “unprotected,” totally unsatisfactory by any standard.

Sheriff Marshall made the decision in 2012 that “road deputies” were more important than having SRO’s at “soft targets of opportunity,” as is presented by these somewhat remote schools.

Westside is in very populated area of Smithfield and SPD is closer and more readily available. One-hundred percent presence is really needed here, too, I think.

As a then-IWCS Board member this was very distressing.

I remain distressed over this as a citizen today.

A safe learning environment for students, etc., is a key Board objective. After meeting privately in 2012 with Mark and some former supervisors, individually, and publicaly voicing my concern at Board meetings, no one was compelled to cause the SROs to be put into the elementary schools and utilize the full $340,000 for what it was designated, initially.

By my estimate, about $200,000 of the $340,000 is being used “otherwise” by the Sheriff in the department since mid-2012. From a cost stand-point the Sheriff has a $4M-plus annual budget. This averages $122/citizen. The $340,000 for SROs averages a September to mid-June cost of $44 per child/teacher/administrator.

This is very economical cost for SROs in keeping with ensuring a “safe learning environment” in all IWCS learning centers.

The SRO cost would be 7.7percent of the Sheriff’s budget and .5 percent of the county’s proposed $71.8M 2016-17 budget. Certainly very economical protection.

Having worked successfully with Mark on numerous law enforcement issues over the years in the SPD Chief and county Sheriff positions, I have found him to be a real asset. He truly is a professional.

Where I have supported him 100 percent in past endeavors, this is a 7.7 percent cost area I totally disagree with, ever since he took his “short-sighted” action in 2012. SROs are more important than department paper-pushers he gave importance to in a 4/13 Smithfield Times article.

Now is the time for the Board of Supervisors in approving Sheriff’s $4M-plus budget they add a sentence “… and $340,000 is to be used annually henceforth in providing SROs in all IWCS learning centers,” … starting right now.


Herb De Groft