Funding SROs in all public schools - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

Funding SROs in all public schools

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BIRMINGHAM - AL -

Long before Chelsea Middle School went on lock down, many sheriffs were already trying to put more deputies into schools. But funding stands in the way.

In the halls, classrooms, parking lots and ball parks, school resource officers are right there.

"The outcry of the public right now is they want their children protected," said Etowah County Sheriff Todd Entrekin.

Not every school has a SRO. But the Sandy Hook shooting triggered new fears.

"It was harder after Sandy Hook for me to let my children out at school and leave everyday and worry about them. They do have SROs," said Entrekin.

The Chelsea Middle School lock down where a Shelby County Sheriff's deputy quickly acted only made the need more apparent.

"It's not a guarantee in human activity that it's going to be perfect. But we're a lot better off if we are there, have relationships," said Calhoun County Sheriff Larry Amerson.

Getting deputies in all the schools is expensive. Federal money isn't there any longer.

Jefferson and Cullman Counties have deputies assigned to multiple schools. That means an SRO covers a high school and the two feeder schools. In Jefferson County's case, there are 21 deputies for the 60 schools.

Shelby County has nine in areas that don't have city police.

Tuscaloosa and Etowah Counties have deputies in the high schools. Tuscaloosa deputies also visit the other schools during the day and try to have lunch with the students.

More are needed and retired officers could be an option for some.

"Retired officers can come back in for a much lower rate with no benefits and they have that experience," said Morgan County Sheriff Ana Franklin whose county just got SROs this year.

Birmingham Representative Merika Coleman-Evans is a mom. She's sponsoring a bill to put SROs in all public schools.

"I want to make sure there is someone there to handle crisis situations in school," she said.

But it's funded by a lottery, which some sheriffs contend is illegal.

"If school safety is a priority, there should be a better way to do it, a faster way to do it," said Amerson.

"Times have changed. It's sad we have to have armed deputies and officers in our schools," said Entrekin.

Coleman-Evans bill has not gone before a committee yet.

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