CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Less than 24 hours after the Charleston County School District approved its new budget, there’s still debate on getting a school resource officer in all county schools.
Last week, a Charleston County School District official and the school board chair went with Charleston County Sheriff Al Cannon to the Charleston County Council meeting to ask for money for SROs.
They said the Charleston Police Department doesn’t have plans to put a full time SRO in every elementary school and asked for money from the county to fill the gap.
Currently, all CCSD high schools and middle schools have a full time SRO in them, but elementary schools in the City of Charleston do not.
The district wants an SRO in every school, and the newly passed budget reflects that money.
“The request is made solely in an effort to provide students and staff with safe and secure schools and campuses,” district officials said in a statement.
“The one thing that everybody agreed on was the desire to have a resource officer in every school,” CCSD Head of Security Michael Reidenbach said to county council about adding an SRO to every school. “In our discussions with the City of Charleston, they prefer to stay with their SSRT model.”
The SSRT model is the police department’s school security response team program.
“We think it’s a better option,” CPD Sgt. Christopher Koegler said. “If you look at the basic need for an officer in elementary schools every day, call to call to call there’s not very many calls for service in the schools so it gives the opportunity to do a lot of things.”
The SSRT program has 18 officers spread out over the city to cover private schools and CCSD elementary schools.
“So, having 18 officers spread out over the city that can respond to all of them and give the same coverage to everybody, we think that’s the better option,” Koegler said.
Charleston Police Chief Luther Reynolds also said they are open to adding more SRO’s and open to any and all options to keep kids safe.
But the district wants to have full time SROs in every school, including elementary schools.
“That leaves us with our only other option in seeking law enforcement services to get full time school resource officers to come to county sheriff to request that,” Reidenbach said.
When it comes to putting deputies in the elementary schools in CPD’s jurisdiction, Sheriff Al Cannon said it’s the sheriff department’s responsibility.
“When you want to talk about vulnerable targets, I don’t know that you get any more vulnerable than elementary schoolers,” Sheriff Al Cannon said.
The Charleston County Finance Committee approved the funding for SROs, but there is the ability to amend that up to the third reading.
District officials said discussions on who will take over as SRO in Charleston elementary schools is still ongoing.