TCSS votes to add SROs to elementary schools

Published 9:00 am Saturday, September 17, 2022

On Thursday, the Troup County School Board voted in favor of adding 11 school resource officers (SRO) at each of the 11 elementary schools in the Troup County School System a cost of approximately $700,000.  

According to board documents, the LaGrange Police Department, Hogansville Police Department, West Point Police Department and Troup County Sheriff’s Office will provide SROs to elementary schools within their individual jurisdictions. The officers that fill these positions will provide on-site police protection as well as build a relationship with the schools.

The $700,000 will come from the TCSS’s FY23 Budgeted Funds, according to the document. 

Superintendent Brian Shumate said most of the SROs will come from the city of LaGrange. TCSS has been working with Troup County and the City of LaGrange for a number of years on how to support TCSS’ SRO program. He said that there are plans to expand to roughly 19 SROs in TCSS.

“They’re really there in a teaching mode and to be a liaison to the community,” Shumate said. “To be a presence inside the school, not just as a law enforcement officer, but as someone who could act as a teacher about the law of how government works and to make sure that students understand the role of police officers in our society, while working to a provide a safe presence for any visitors on campus.”

Public Relations Director Irisha Goodman said TCSS already has SROs in the high schools and middle schools but does not currently have any full-time SROs in the elementary schools in Troup County.

LPD Chief Lou Dekmar said the department currently has six positions for SROs and will look to add more in the future. The SROs will be a new position.

“When we bring on one or two, we would divide the elementary schools so they could spend time in each one,” Dekmar said. “Eventually, as we bring more SROs, the goal would be to assign one to each school.”

For officers that are already working with the LPD, Dekmar said they have an internal process for new assignments, so officers interested can apply for the position. After the internal process, they would go through an external process for individuals that are either SROs or meet the qualifications.

After the processes, LPD would hire them and they’d be assigned for training. 

Sgt. Stewart Smith of the Troup County Sheriff’s Office said TCSO has worked with the school system on an approximate two-year timeline to implement SROs. 

The SROs from the TCSO will cover Hillcrest, Rosemont, Callaway and Long Cane Elementary schools  

“We’re hoping to fill one of the positions very quickly, but the other ones are going to take some time due to having to hire and fill and staff those positions,” Smith said. 

According to Smith, having officers patrol elementary schools is something that the TCSO has been doing for several years. 

“Elementary schools that do not have SROs out of the county, patrol deputies when they are near any of those schools, stop and meet with the staff of the school, walk the halls at least once, maybe twice a day,” Smith said. 

The current SROs that cover Long Cane Middle and Callaway Middle also cover Long Cane and Callaway Elementary as needed, he said. Hogansville Police Chief Jeff Sheppard said HPD department heads got together after the Uvalde incident and spoke with TCSS to request SROs in elementary schools.

“We already have an officer at the elementary school. They are currently training and taking the LEADS training, which is the law enforcement equivalent of what used to be the DARE program,” Sheppard said. 

According to Sheppard, Hogansville will only have one SRO. The SRO for Hogansville is a seasoned investigator and has been training with a SRO in Grantville. 

“We are excited to be able to put an SRO in our elementary school and work even closer with the community,” Sheppard said.

“It’s all about safety at the end of the day,” Shumate said. 

“The presence of that person should help us with just giving the overall feeling that our schools are safe and are conducive to learning. Parents can feel good about sending their kids there every day. It should be a really great thing for the school district.”