Jefferson County Sheriff Mike Hale today announced plans to put a school resource officer in every school in the Jefferson County School System as part of his School Safety Plan.
That plan includes the formation of a Threat Assessment Team to identify patterns of troubling behavior and supply resources for managing students who display them.
“There has been a call for two things – arm teachers or put SROs in every school,” Hale said Thursday outside Minor Community School. “This is the best alternative.”
Hale said it will take nearly $1.2 million to put an SRO in each school. The plan calls for retired deputies and other retired law enforcement officers to fill the slots.
Half of the money to implement the effort will come from the Jefferson County School System and the other half from the Jefferson County Commission.
Commission President Jimmie Stephens said public safety is a top priority of the commission.
“We stand with our school system, our board of education and our Sheriff’s Department to make sure our students have a safe environment in which to learn,” he said. “We are proud to partner with the Board of Education and the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department to make that happen.
“I don’t know if you can do too much but you want to provide that level of safety where your parents feel comfortable dropping their kids off,” Stephens added. “This gives the Jefferson County School System an advantage over the other school systems. It’s our responsibility as elected officials to have that safe environment for our children.”
Hale said the assessment team will be established within the School Resource Division to identify students who exhibit patterns of behavior that may indicate a need for help.
The multidisciplinary team will be made up of a Sheriff’s investigator, member of the Jefferson County Board of Education and a mental health worker.
Hale said retired deputies and retired officers will enter into a contract with the Sheriff’s Department. While the retirees will have already been trained, they also will receive specialized tactical SRO training at the national SRO headquarters in Birmingham.
“We struck a balance,” the sheriff said. “If they’re APOST certified – Alabama Peace Officer Standard and Training Commission – they can immediately activate those credentials. We can train them with that specialized SRO mental health training and they’ll be ready to go.”
Hale said he hopes the program can be in place within 90 days. He said the first 12 are getting their uniforms and are scheduled for training next week.
“I’d like to use this as a call to guys who are retired that are hearing this,” he said. “Come see us. Come to the sheriff’s office. Give us your resume. Let us have a contract with you and give you a chance to make some money but at the same time serve our county and serve our children by protecting them.
“Once again, we will be a best-practices model of how governments and school districts across the nation can protect children,” Hale said. “We’re leading the way.”