May 17, 2007
A police shortage has Albemarle County thinking about pulling some of the resource officers stationed at schools.
Police said just one of the options being discussed is to put some of these officers back on the streets. It’s an idea that already has some parents concerned.
“I know Chief Miller is between a rock and a hard place really, but I do hope this is an absolute last resort to take them out of the middle school,” said Shelley Payne, president of the Burley Middle School PTO.
Down 18 officers, police chief John Miller is considering reallocating his resources. One of the ideas being discussed is to move the four officers stationed at the middle schools and leave just three officers to cover the high schools.
“They're important in the middle schools because it’s where you can catch a lot of kids before they get off track,” said Payne.
No decisions have been made, and police said they are discussing other options as well.
“I think it’s good to have a police presence here, and with things like Virginia Tech recently, you want to feel like your kids are safe,” said parent James Burton.
“I think it’s great they have a presence here, and if they take them away, I think its going to be a free for all,” said Sutherland Middle School parent Kim Burnal.
Police said it’s not entirely a question of money. After all, half of the school resource officer’s salary is paid for by the schools. Police have the funding for additional officers, but sometimes a police officer's salary isn't enough to attract qualified applicants.
“There must be a surplus with all the real estate taxes coming in, and I think they should look at paying them more. They offer an invaluable service to the community,” said Burton.
There are other factors that contribute to police understaffing like officers out on military leave, officers out because of injuries and officers who may still be in training.
Neither police nor the schools would comment Thursday but do say Albemarle County School Superintendent Pam Moran met with Miller Thursday afternoon to talk about this idea and other alternatives.