WASHINGTON The Statesville Police Department was among six agencies in North Carolina getting a federal grant to help install school safety officers.
In an attempt to keep schoolchildren safer, the U.S. Department of Justice on Friday said it was handing out $44 million in grants to help provide 356 school resource officers to 141 cities and counties around the country.
Some grants recipients had been named previously; Friday’s announcement included all winners. While the grants go to law enforcement agencies, they are intended to help place more police officers in schools.
Statesville police got a $250,000 grant to fund two new school resource officers. Other North Carolina agencies include: Bladen County, $204,404 for two officers; Bumcombe County Sheriff’s Department, $875,000 for seven officers; Duplin County Sheriff’s Office, $422,022 for four officers; city of Lumberton, $227,724 for two officers; and Swain County Sheriff’s Department, $101,083 for one officer.
In South Carolina, Richland County got a $500,000 grant to fund four officers, Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Department received $1.02 million for 10 officers and Spartanburg Department of Public Safety got $109,286 for one officer.
The grants represent the latest push from the Obama administration to make the nation’s schools safer.
A month after the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, where 20 children and six adults were shot and killed, President Barack Obama launched a campaign to reduce gun violence nationwide. Included were proposals to mandate background checks for gun buyers and bans on high-capacity magazines.
The administration also aimed to put up to 1,000 new school resource officers and counselors in schools across the country, as well as to make sure every school has an emergency management plan. Although many of the president’s ideas have been rebuffed by Congress, the ideas for emergency plans by schools and additional safety officers are in place.
A school resource officer is a sworn law enforcement officer with the authority to make arrests and a license to carry a weapon in schools. Resource officers can also mentor and advise students, as would a guidance counselor.
A fast-growing part of law enforcement
Elsewhere, a $1 million grant for Modesto, Calif., will fund eight new school resource officers in the city’s school district.
“Not only do they deter crime, but they provide opportunities for positive relations between students and law enforcement,” said Karen Servas, a Modesto City School District grant writer.
The district collaborated with the Modesto Police Department in the grant-writing process, and the partners got the amount they asked for.
According to the National Association of School Resource Officers, there are more than 10,000 resource officers in the U.S. Based on a surge in training requests, memberships and actual new officers across the country, the association said that school-based policing is the fastest growing area of law enforcement.
The grant money for the school officers came from the existing Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing Services – COPS – grant program. This year, COPS officials favored police departments that had applied for school resource officers, although it still funded many of its traditional grants.
Friday’s announcement detailed $125 million in grants, of which $44 million went to the schools program.
“In the wake of past tragedies, it’s clear that we need to be willing to take all possible steps to ensure that our kids are safe when they go to school,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement announcing the awards.
“These critical investments represent the Justice Department’s latest effort to strengthen key law enforcement capabilities and to provide communities with the resources they need to protect our young people. Especially in a time of increased challenges and limited budgets, our top priority must always be the safety and well-being of our children.”
Observer staff writer Joe DePriest contributed to this story
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