Roanoke County Police and Sheriff’s Office see positives in school resource officer staffing

Published: Jun. 21, 2023 at 10:44 PM EDT
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ROANOKE COUNTY, Va. (WDBJ) - The Roanoke County Police Department and Sheriff’s Office have partnered for years to have school resource officers in the halls of Roanoke County Public Schools.

“I would venture to say about 15 years ago, we started with our high schools and middle schools with our SRO program,” said Michael Poindexter, Chief of Roanoke County Police.

The Sheriff’s Office presence came in more recently.

“We began working with the school system and the County PD late 2016, early 2017 for a plan to introduce some elementary school SRO deputies,” said Eric Orange, Sheriff of Roanoke County.

In recent years, both have gotten funding to increase that presence. RCPD’s is through a grant from the Department of Criminal Justice Services, and RCSO’s is through $180,000 from the personnel budget approved by the School Board in June 2022. These have specifically focused on an added SRO presence in RCPS’s 16 elementary schools.

“We have two full-time SRO deputies that serve solely in the elementary schools. And then we have an additional five part-time SRO deputies who are currently serving in the elementary schools. And we have one who’s in the hiring process, which would bring us to a total of eight that are represented in the elementary schools,” said Orange.

“Since January, we’ve hired five officers and we look to fill the remaining three positions as soon as possible. And we believe we may be getting another grant for another eight officers,” said Poindexter.

“One of the requirements for the grant is that the officer have three years experience. This year, DCJS changed that to two years experience. So we’re looking for experienced officers who have worked the road before, so they can meet our requirements,” said Poindexter.

“Really just being able to find qualified candidates, in a small pool of candidates, because everybody’s drawing from the same pool, is probably the biggest challenge that we’re facing,” said Orange.

Another important requirement is being able to connect with students and staff on a daily basis.

“Letting students know that these individuals are there to help, they are public servants who are there to assist you now as students and also as you go throughout life. We want our citizen body to understand that our primary concern and goal is not only their safety, but also the ways in which we can serve them,” said Orange.

This summer’s focus for both departments is the hiring process, but also continued training for the SROs already part of the force.