Franklin County Sheriff’s Office happy to increase safety in schools with new SRO grant

Published: Aug. 11, 2022 at 10:43 PM EDT
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FRANKLIN COUNTY, Va. (WDBJ) - For the first time, school resource officers will be in elementary schools in Franklin County. The Franklin County School Board announced the grant at its monthly meeting Monday.

“About four years ago, the state provided a grant around $35 million toward a lot of issues, mental health, substance abuse. In that particular grant, there was money for school resources officers, there was only about $6 million out of that $35 million. We certainly applied back then and were awarded two SROs at that time and we placed those in our middle school and high school,” said Bill Overton, Sheriff of Franklin County.

That brought the total SROs in FCPS middle schools and high schools to three. But this year, more money was added to the grant and when FCSO applied for it, they were awarded an additional six SROs.

“There were some guidelines and stipulations to the grant, in that you had to be ready to use the grant this physical school year, officers had to have at least three years of service; that certainly brought on some of its own challenges. But we were able to look through our office and had interest enough from within, that we were able to find five of our officers and we were able to hire one individual who had experience and was already certified and had worked in school resource in the past.”

Though there will be specific SROs in the elementary schools now, FCSO has had its patrol deputies covering the school systems needs over the past few years.

“For some period of time, especially after the Parkland shooting in Florida, we have been rotating our patrol deputies in and out of the schools each day as they’re patrolling. That has been very effective and staff and students have grown to appreciate that immensely and the relationships we’ve been able to build is great.”

But with school safety a priority for FCSO, they feel expanding the SRO presence can be vital in an emergency situation.

”The quicker the threat is met and eliminated, then lives are saved. That’s why we need officers in those schools to be able to react and respond because seconds count in an active shooting situation.”

The six SROs will split their time across the 12 elementary schools, but Overton hopes in the future they will be able to have an SRO in each school in Franklin County.

The SROs are coming from FCSO, which means there are six openings that the sheriff’s office will need to fill in the coming months.

“Certainly it’s going to be a challenge for us. We’re still able to meet the minimum standards, we’re not dropping below that for our response times and ability to do what we’re tasked with doing in keeping our community safe.”

For more information about the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, find its website here.

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