Board of Supervisors and Sheriff Harris Discuss School Safety
At the April 3rd Board of Supervisors meeting, Sheriff Harris was present to speak about school safety, specifically to have a dialogue with the Board about the recent budget proposals to add 11 School Resource Officers (SROs) and convert 4 Dare officers to SROs - which would fill the remaining schools that currently lack SRO coverage.
The video discussion can be found below.
The dialogue on school safety was more informative than prior meetings. Sheriff Harris addressed many unanswered questions and provided insights into his thinking. While the purpose of the discussion was for supervisors to converse with Sheriff Harris, one would have believed each supervisor would have had enough time to formulate a cohesive stance moving forward. Supervisor Yakabouski was the only official that seemed ready to commit to a way ahead on school safety.
Based on comments, the Board majority seems to lean toward Option 2, since Sheriff Harris stated that there was no way he would be able to realistically train and field 11 SROs by September. This would allow the Board to delay the financial obligation of some those positions in the first half of the budget year and realize some initial cost savings. While not on the above slide, Option two would likely include 4 less new SROs with the 4 Dare officers filling 4 of the 15 slots.
A few observations from the meeting:
Chairman Benton continued to advocate for private armed security, but Sheriff Harris provided no indication he favored or would support that course of action saying it would be difficult to ensure accountability of non-Sheriff Deputies.
During the meeting, the Sheriff stated that the School and Sheriff's Office have a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and that a joint Task Force exists for security related issues. It would seem that if the Board needed more information it would be valuable to get input from them, since that group may be best positioned to provide a comprehensive picture of school security.
Lastly, this is more of a general point of discussion...Do you feel safe in Spotsy? It caught my attention when Sheriff Harris mentioned that violence has increased, but it was hard to tell whether this was in the schools or in the community at large. Based on available County data, the crime rate has been relatively flat the last several years. If violence is increasing in the community it would be interesting to see that data. One stat I found notable is that the State Compensation Board has been reimbursing for only 1:1,500 ratio of sheriffs per capita. According to budget documents Spotsylvania is at 1:930 per capita and if the 11 new Sheriff Deputies were hired it would decline further to 1:866.
Considering the State normally funds what they consider the bare minimum, they must believe that as 1 Sheriff Deputy for every 1,500 population is that minimum. Spotsylvania is approaching better than half that ratio using an estimated population of 136,000.