Meridian Star

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July 7, 2013

Three deputies finish SRO training

MERIDIAN —     The Newtown, Conn., shooting earlier this year is a scenario that keeps a great many law enforcement officials up at night wondering how best to protect those children who are most vulnerable to a crazed gunman.

    When it comes to Lauderdale County schools and Lauderdale County Sheriff's Department officials, there was one particular location that caused a certain amount of anxiety — West Lauderdale Elementary School.

    "I worried about that school, the teachers and children, because of the fact it is so off by itself," said Ward Calhoun, chief deputy for the LCSD. "It would take us too long to get there and when it comes to minutes, a lot of bad things can happen."

    Some of that worry is now alleviated thanks to the graduation recently of three deputies who have completed the School Resource Officer course. At NAS Meridian the three officers, Dep. Jason Wiggins, Dep. Kara Clark, and Dep. Jared Woodall, received their certificates after passing the 40-hour course.

    This graduation is significant according to Calhoun in that now all the county school campuses are covered by armed and trained personnel. Wiggins will be assigned to Northeast High School. Clark will be walking the halls of Northeast Elementary and Woodall will plug the security hole that existed at West Lauderdale Elementary School on Highway 495. So concerned were local law enforcement officials about the difficulty of responding to the school that a live shooter drill was conducted recently to test just how vulnerable the staff and children were.

    "We have officers much closer at the other campuses but the West Lauderdale Elementary School location was a problem for us," Calhoun said.

    The School Resource Officer (SRO) Basic Courses are the means by which law enforcement agencies and school districts may fulfill the requirements of Section 37-7-321, Mississippi Code of 1972. This legislation requires that any officer or individual assigned on a full time basis to perform school security and safety duties is to complete a training course designated by the Mississippi Department of Education and Mississippi Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training.

    An SRO is an officer commissioned by a local law enforcement agency or school district who is certified by the Mississippi Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training as a police officer. The officer must be at least 23 years of age and have three years of full time law enforcement experience prior to assignment as an SRO.  The officer is responsible for law enforcement, teaching within the area of expertise, security administration, and mentoring of students.

    Calhoun says it is a sad state of affairs there have to be SROs in the schools but the reality of today, as proven over and over again, is that there are bad people who want to do horrible things to the innocent.

    The silver lining to this issue of the need of SROs is that in many instances school aged children don't have someone they can trust and turn to if they are having a particularly bad day or if they know of some potential problems at their school.

    "The SRO is someone who the kids can come to," Calhoun says. "Unfortunately, many of these kids don't have someone at home they can confide in. The SRO is trained to help these children in a wide variety of ways."

    Beginning this coming school year, all the campuses will have the security of a trained officer who will hopefully deter anyone from causing the kind of chaos and grief experienced at Newtown.

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