Starting Tuesday, the Elementary Proactive Patrol will begin rotating in and out of elementary schools each day from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
In a proactive approach due to the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre in Newtown, Conn. that killed 20 children, the Bossier Parish School Board voted at their meeting Thursday, Jan. 17, to add four additional school resource officers to elementary schools.
The trained Bossier Sheriff deputies will serve the district's schools on a rotational basis. Middle schools and high schools in Bossier Parish already have resource officers assigned to them.
“After the incident at Sandy Hook, it became apparent that we must evaluate (adding officers) and seek additional security measures at all of our schools as soon as possible. It was determined that securing SRO officers at the elementary schools would be a most proactive approach to the continued improvement to school security within our system,” said Bossier Superintendent D.C. Machen.
As the chief law enforcement officer for Bossier Parish, my top priority is public safety, which includes the nearly 22,000 students who attend our schools,” said Sheriff Julian Whittington. “I have been in close contact with Superintendent Machen and Bossier City Police Chief Shane McWilliams over the past few weeks in order to help formulate the best plan to protect our children and teachers. As the School Board develops a long-term security plan for the elementary schools, I am pleased with their interim decision to hire extra duty deputies to patrol the elementary schools which will provide that added protection in the meantime.”
Off-duty deputies will be assigned to cover specific elementary schools in areas within the parish on a rotational basis throughout the week, for the remainder of this school year. The off-duty deputies will be paid the part time hourly wage from the General Fund Budget.
Currently, the SRO program is funded through the board's General Fund at an annual expense of approximately $1 million. Machen said there are only three available sources of income for a system to be able to manage the recurring costs annually associated with such a program – the General Fund Budget, sales tax or advalorem tax.
The Bossier Parish School System had previously discussed the feasibility of expanding the SRO program into elementary schools and have investigated revenue sources that could be utilized.
“During this process, discussions were held related to funding the expense of the expansion of the SRO program and possibly expansion of such a process but on a gradual scale, identifying key areas of need and progressing from there. Also a major concern that was discussed was the availability of such a large number of trained and licensed deputies at one time and the impact that would have on a law enforcement agency to provide such a large number of officers at one time,” said Machen.
He said input from parents through phone calls and emails following the Sandy Hook incident were very instrumental in the school system and the Bossier Sheriff Department negotiations that led to the development of this action plan.
“Since announcing the proposed plan at the Audit and Security Committee meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 15 and final approval at the board meeting on Thursday, the response and communication received has been most positive, appreciative, and supportive of the initiative,” said Machen.
Sheriff Whittington has been actively involved in evaluating the school system’s Crisis Management and School Security Program with Machen and Director of Security Danny Dison since the tragedy at Sandy Hook.
“These meetings have resulted in active investigations and implementation of immediate or interim actions that can be taken, as well as potential permanent efforts, to demonstrate how we can continuously improve,” said Machen.
Machen acknowledges the burden that training additional deputies will have on Whittington's department, but said the sheriff has been nothing but cooperative and supportive.
“The Bossier Parish School Board could not be more pleased with or adequately express our appreciation of the cooperation, support and guidance the Bossier Sheriff’s Department has provided in the development and implementation of our school security program,” said Machen.
“This same appreciation and cooperation also must be extended to the Bossier Office of Homeland Security, Bossier City Police Department, Haughton Police Department, Plain Dealing Police Department and the Fire Departments and EMS departments of each of these entities.”