Sheriff Jeff Shaver announces that the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office will soon have a new unit consisting of School Resource Officers (SRO). The new Unit is being built through the collaborative effort between the Cherokee County Commission, Board of Education and the Sheriff’s Office.

Funding for the new SRO Unit will come from all three entities. The Board of Education, on Tuesday, voted to fund salaries of the deputies assigned to the SRO Unit, the County Commission had already approved to fund the personnel benefit package and recurring expenses, and the Sheriff’s Office committed last year to provide all associated equipment.

“We have been purchasing the necessary equipment for SROs over the past year and have been waiting for funding to be approved for salaries,” said Sheriff Shaver, “and now thanks to the Board of Education and County Commission, especially the leadership of Board President Brian Jennings and Probate Judge Tim Burgess, we are now ready to establish the SRO Unit.”

The Sheriff’s Office, and many others, began working on this project in 2013 when a Sheriff’s School Safety Committee was appointed. According to Sheriff Shaver, the committee included leaders from law enforcement, education, businesses, parents, and government. That committee recommended several items to improve school security and many have been accomplished over the years with the exception of a full-time SRO program. Since that time, one deputy has been assigned to cover all eight schools each day which is simply not enough.

“Schools have made many physical security improvements in recent years and the addition of SROs is a major component to overall school security,” said Sheriff Shaver.

The SROs will be certified deputy sheriffs who are assigned full-time to work with schools. For this, SRO’s receive many hours of ongoing specialized training. The concept is similar to the “cop on foot patrol” who knows the public he serves on a first name basis and is sensitive to their particular needs. Like many adults, some students view police officers solely as enforcers of the laws. By establishing a rapport with their school’s SRO, students will not only gain positive role models, but also a better understanding of Deputy Sheriffs and the many other duties and responsibilities.

Likewise, SRO’s will gain a better perspective of the students in their schools. By carefully assessing the needs of individual students, SRO’s will be more aware of the development of unhealthy or destructive behavioral patterns. Through early intervention it is possible, in many cases to redirect negative behaviors before they cause a student to be referred to the Criminal Justice System.

According to Sheriff Shaver, the primary goal of the Safe Schools Unit will be to provide a safe and secure environment that is conducive for student learning. In addition, SROs will teach classes regarding all types of safety, work school traffic when needed, provide security at school events as requested the the school administrator and work to mitigate hazards.

Chief Deputy Josh Summerford said, “Our goal is to have eight deputies in the SRO Unit and assign a deputy to each school campus across the County. We will begin to build the Unit as the official agreement is signed, but full implementation could take upwards to a year to hire and train all eight additional deputies. We have assigned Sgt. Jordan Kelley as the first SRO and he will also service as the supervisor of the Unit.”

Sheriff Shaver would like to reiterate his appreciation to both the Board of Education and the County Commission in helping to make this important program possible.