Note: This story was updated at 9:45 a.m. Jan. 14.
The Oak Ridge City Council approved a move on Monday that will add a second school resource officer in the city’s schools, and the new SRO could start Monday.
The new SRO is Oak Ridge Police Department Officer Michael Swigert. The current SRO is Officer Sherrill Selby.
It’s not as big a step as some officials had proposed during the past few years. There have been various proposals to have a total of three SROs, including one at each of the city’s two middle schools, or even more, perhaps one SRO at each school. The discussions seemed to gain urgency after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in December 2012, but funding has been an obstacle.
Oak Ridge Police Chief Jim Akagi said he would still recommend one SRO at each middle school.
Oak Ridge City Manager Mark Watson said the one additional officer is a good step.
“This is a positive thing, and I would suggest we move forward,” Watson told City Council members before they approved the move in a 5-1 vote on Monday.
The resolution approved by Council on Monday allows the Oak Ridge Police Department to hire an extra police officer, exceeding its authorized personnel staffing levels, in order to assign an existing police officer as an SRO. In a memo to City Council, Watson and Oak Ridge Police Chief Jim Akagi said funding is available from positions that are unfilled because of retirements and personnel turnover.
The ORPD will hire another officer to “backfill” Swigert’s position, and the department can increase its number of officers by one, from 61 to 62, Akagi said.
Watson said he and Akagi have worked diligently to reshape the police department and didn’t want to detract from the changes by moving someone from patrol to an SRO position.
Oak Ridge City Council member Anne Garcia Garland voted against the Monday move, which was designated as an “overhire.” She said she hadn’t seen information that showed that more officers in the schools would improve safety.
“I’m not prepared to support this when we are already short on the street,” Garcia Garland said.
The City Council will have a chance to review the new ORPD staffing level during its May budget debate.
The SROs can work at any of the city’s nine schools, although much of their activity is at the high school, Watson said.
Oak Ridge Mayor Tom Beehan was absent from Monday’s meeting. The other five Council members voted for the “overhire.”
See a sampling of previous SRO-related stories here:
- City move could add another police officer to Oak Ridge Schools (Jan. 8, 2014)
- Two more police officers, sergeant stationed at ORHS, Alternative School (Aug. 21, 2013)
- Schools have to report illegal activity, turn over dangerous weapons or drugs, agreement says (Aug. 8, 2013)
- Oak Ridge municipal, education officials reach agreement on school resource officer MOU (Aug. 8, 2013)
- Council passes no-tax-increase budget (May 28, 2013)
- School board approves one-time bonus, SRO funding, hears pleas to save jobs (May 22, 2013)
- Connecticut massacre focuses attention on school security in Tennessee (Dec. 18, 2012)