The Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office will double the number of school resource officers in February by reassigning current staff.
The increase from seven to 14 officers, plus at least one sergeant, will allow for one to cover each middle and high school, said Rick Doyle, director of operations.
The initiative was among the first priorities of new Sheriff Duane Piper after he took office Jan. 1, following a commitment he made during his campaign, Doyle said.
According to Doyle, the new school resource officers will be moved from other positions within the agency, so as not to create any increase in expenses.
The agency has also asked uniform patrol deputies to increase their presence at elementary schools when possible, such as parking in the lot while filing reports from their vehicles.
“We want to be fiscally responsible and accountable,” Doyle said. “If we have the ability to reassign and become more efficient and can benefit the schools, that’s our goal.”
In the current setup, officers are assigned to a high school but also serve nearby schools, said district spokeswoman Jennifer Caracciolo.
The other two existing officers provide roaming coverage in the north and south halves of the county.
The doubled coverage will allow five school resource officers to be stationed full time at each high school, and the other nine will be assigned to a middle school, while also serving the feeder elementary schools.
“It will provide more opportunities for education, such as class presentations on Internet safety, bullying and alcohol/drug prevention made in partnership with the SROs and teachers,” Caracciolo said.
Doyle said the officers will continue to provide safety for the students and create a law enforcement presence in the schools.
“The SRO program was always about crime prevention and community, but it’s evolved more into a security issue as well,” he said. “They’re there for safety, eyes and ears, helping the kids … The added benefit is they are interacting with the students.”
Doyle said the agency has seen an “overwhelming response” from current employees interested in transferring to a school resource officer position, and will begin interviewing and screening next week.
In the summers, when school is not in session, Doyle said the deputies will also be cross-trained to work on the boat or bike units.
The sheriff’s office and school district have other plans to continue ensuring safety on campuses.
Caracciolo said a safety committee will be established with district staff, school principals and local law enforcement to meet throughout the year “to discuss and plan for school safety.”
The district will also begin conducting school safety audits “to review operating practices and safety procedures, and provide recommendations for safety improvements.”