NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — In the wake of The Covenant School shooting, Gov. Bill Lee proposed $140 million for added school security, including money to put a school resource officer (SRO) in every public and private school in the state.
On Thursday, a group of sheriffs met in Franklin where they spoke to News 2 about the governor’s proposal, how it will help their counties and how SROs are a vitally important law enforcement tool in thwarting school violence.
Putnam County Sheriff Eddie Farris told News 2, his agency has 21 SROs in 19 schools. Farris, like many of the sheriffs, told News 2 he thanks the governor for being supportive of law enforcement.
“This will help us get SROs in other schools additionally, private schools as well,” Farris said.
Cheatham County Sheriff Tim Binkley told News 2 there are 13 schools in Cheatham County and all public schools are covered with an SRO.
Binkley also thanked the governor for making money available to make schools safer.
“Every school is covered right now,” added Dickson County Sheriff Tim Eads. “In Dickson County, that’s 13 schools. In the county, we have deputies in them, and the schools in the city have city officers in them.”
“It is going to help in a lot of ways, especially for counties that can’t afford SROs in their schools, number one,” Binkley said. “And it will also help taxpayers, taxpayers spend a lot of money in Cheatham County to make sure our kids are safe, and it is money well spent.”
Farris added, “And I believe this is true in every county. There is nothing more important than the safety and security of our children in our schools and our educators, they are our future.”
“This will tremendously help us,” Eads told News 2. “We will be able to put at least two more SROs, one in the school and one to cover schools if someone is out sick. Right now, we have to send a deputy or someone from warrants to fill that in.”
“And just because we have an officer in every school doesn’t necessarily mean the school is covered,” Binkley added. “We have some very large campuses, and this will help us put two officers in each school in some of the bigger schools. Just one school is a mile of hallways, you can imagine how much they have to cover in a day’s time, they can’t be everywhere, so this will absolutely help that.”
According to Williamson County Sheriff Dusty Rhoades, WCSO is budgeted for 74 SROs, meaning there is at least one SRO in every public school in the county.
That’s the good news, but Rhoades says there’s a manpower shortage in the law enforcement profession and staffing officers for important jobs in his department, like SROs, can be challenging.
According to Binkley, SROs are much more than just guns and badges to the kids.
“The kids admire them. They love them. They want them there, and the officers get to know the kids and that helps a whole lot,” Binkley said. “These SROs are not just there to protect schools, that is their primary purpose for being there, but they are there to educate the kids too.”
Farris said SROs are boots on the ground, developing intel that often stops school violence before it can start.
“Here’s where we win with SRO. It’s not at the event. Yes, that is important, but there are always clues leading up to the event, and so those clues we get come from students and social media, and we follow up with those immediately to make sure that nothing bad occurs,” Farris said. “Most instances show those things occur and we are not paying attention, law enforcement officers are not paying attention to that. So any kind of things that come up that could be an issue, firearms or threats, we run that down not tomorrow, the next day, or next week, but right then immediately. A lot of times my SROs are out ’til midnight running leads down to make sure that the next day school is safe.”