Times Staff Report
Sheriff Mike Hale earlier this month unveiled a new comprehensive School Safety Plan to insure the safety and security for all Jefferson County School students and staff.
Key elements of the plan include placing a School Resource Deputy in every Jefferson County elementary, middle and high school and an assessment team within the School Resource Division to identify students who exhibit certain patterns of behavior that may indicate a need for assistance.
“I can’t begin to stress how pleased we are to be able to do this. With the tragedies we have seen in other areas of the country we certainly understand it can happen here. This school safety initiative should be a relief to every parent with a child in our schools and every staff member working there,” Hale said.
During the 2017-2018 school year deputies with the Sheriff’s School Resource Division investigated eighty-one felonies and two hundred sixty-nine misdemeanors, including twenty-five Terrorist Threat investigations.
Currently there are 25 School Resource Deputies serving 56 Jefferson County Schools. This includes a K9 handler who floats between all the schools for searches.
Hale plans to hire 31 contract deputies to supplement the current staff placing Personnel in every school rather than a single SRO being responsible for and roving between high schools and feeder schools.
“I think we can all agree the very best protection for our children in school is a sworn, trained law enforcement officer on site,” said the sheriff. “Our children deserve to be safe and feel safe in school. I’m confident today that we have taken steps to insure that safety . . . I believe we are leading the nation in school safety and will be the model for other school systems to follow.”
The Sheriff’s School Safety Plan also calls for the development and implementation of a Threat Assessment Team to identify patterns of troubling behavior and provide resources for managing students who exhibit them. The multidisciplinary team will be comprised of a sheriff’s investigator, a member of the Jefferson County Board of Education, and a mental health worker.
This initiative will be partially funded in partnership with the school system and the Sheriff’s budget. The Deputies hired will be recently retired law enforcement officers with current APOSTC certification. The Sheriff’s Office will host training for the new SROs through the National School Resource Officers Association. This training will include the Basic SRO Training Course and the Advanced SRO Training Course.
So far 19 applicants have been selected. More are needed. APOST Certified Alabama law enforcement officers retired in good standing who are interested in applying should contact the Sheriff’s Office Internal Affairs Division at 205-325-5709.
Shortly after its inception in 1999 the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office School Resource Division was named as a model for other law enforcement agencies across the country. This new plan will serve to reinforce our position as a national leader in school safety.
At least two private schools and one city are aware of this new safety plan and are currently negotiating with the Sheriff’s Office to provide SROs for their schools as well.