STEWART COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) — Stewart County is beefing up security in its schools. The sheriff’s office started a Reserve SRO program, an all-volunteer program that launched this month.
Richard Leese has every member of his family in Stewart County Schools. His daughter’s in middle school, his son in elementary, and his wife teaches reading. “I generally worry about my children’s safety, and everyone’s children’s safety,” said Leese.
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Leese is the very first member of the newly-launched Stewart County Sheriff’s Office SRO Reserve program. He’s spent a career in law enforcement as a jailer, officer, and a deputy, but in this new position, he’s simply serving out of the goodness of his heart.
“I’m very blessed in life. I want to give back to my community. And this just gives me the outlet to do it. No, I don’t want any compensation at all.”
Right now, Stewart County has a paid SRO in every school, and two in the high school—this new reserve program will add one more position, but this one is unpaid.
“They love him being there. I think it’s great. I think it’s going to be a great program,” said Sheriff Frankie Gray.
Gray said the Reserve SROs have all the same powers as the full-time positions. “Protecting our kids, protecting our teachers, too. And it makes the parents feel better. I’ve had a lot of parents say, ‘It’s a great idea. We feel so much better now.'”
The Reserve SRO program requires 40 hours of training before work begins and 80 hours a year; firearms training; at least 15 hours of volunteering a month; and of course, Gray said, a good upstanding citizen.
“My hope, and the sheriff’s hope as well, is to maybe have more people come forward and volunteer and help, and just that much more security in our school systems,” said Leese.
Leese said he’ll be patrolling all the Stewart County public schools, including some field trips and sporting events.