MAYVILLE — The Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office has turned down a request from a school district to supply a school resource officer due to a lack of staffing, county officials were told.
During the legislature’s Public Safety Committee meeting, Undersheriff Rich Telford was in attendance to discuss a resolution to renew five contracts with area school districts, as well as a contract for BOCES for two deputies. The schools were Brocton, Frewsburg, Pine Valley, Silver Creek and Forestville. BOCES uses one officer at its Academy at Maple Avenue school in Cassadaga and a second deputy splits time between the Hewes campus in Ashville and the Loguidice campus in Fredonia.
During the discussion Legislator Terry Niebel, R-Sheridan, noted a few years ago there were even fewer schools using SROs. He said he was glad more schools are using them but asked Telford about ways to expand the program.
Telford noted that he reached out to each of the schools listed in the resolution to make sure they wanted to continue. He then added that he had an inquiry from a school district about getting a deputy, but they couldn’t fulfill the request.
“Unfortunately, we don’t have the manpower to fill that,” he said.
He did not identify the school district, other than to say it was a school district in the county.
It wasn’t a financial issue. Even though SROs are considered county employees, schools are billed for the cost of the deputy, so from a budget perspective, it’s essentially a wash. In the resolution, each school is charged $104,125 per deputy.
The issue, Telford explained, is due to staffing.
“We do it (assign deputies to schools) on a volunteer basis within the department. We did not have anybody that was off probation that was interested in becoming an SRO,” he said.
Telford said they don’t like assigning deputies as SROs if they don’t want to do it. “What we have found in the past is if we forced somebody into this role when they didn’t want to do it, it was not a good fit because of the requirements,” he said.
He also said they don’t like putting deputies who are on probation into a school. “Law enforcement is difficult enough but when you go into a school where you’re dealing with a 14-year-old, a 16-year-old and an 18-year-old, they’re all different,” he said. “We try avoid having deputies that are brand new going into the schools.”
Telford said if things change and they have a qualified deputy to become a school resource officer, they will reach out to that school and see if they’re still interested.
The Sheriff’s Office is not the only police agency to supply school resource officers in Chautauqua County. Westfield, Ellicott, Jamestown and Dunkirk all supply school resource officers to their local school districts.
Also, both Fredonia and Cassadaga Valley have a school safety adviser, which serves the role as an SRO but are not an employee of a police department.
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