Taylorville leaders look to add School Resource Officers
TAYLORVILLE, Ill. (WRSP) —
The city of Taylorville has talked about bringing a School Resource Officer into their Taylorville Jr. and High School protect their students. This comes after several mass shootings just this year.
Some Central Illinois parents were shocked to hear Taylorville schools didn't already have SROs.
The idea has been in the talks for three to four years between the school district and police department, but just has never came to fruition. Now the city is listening to their proposal and getting involved.
"It's been very bad,” 11-year-old Taylorville student, Rian Ebert said.
He said the school climate is changing across the nation, including in Taylorville.
"School shootings have been scaring all of us” Rian said.
Florida’s Parkland High School shooting sparked a sharper focus on an ongoing city discussion for SROs.
"Basically, police presence inside the schools,” Taylorville Alderman Martin Vota said.
Alderman Vota said SROs can deescalate bad situations and be someone kids can confide in.
"There's not one person on city council that would say ‘No, we wouldn't support this’” Vota said.
But Vota is still concerned.
“The biggest problem right now is ‘how are we going to finance this?’” Vota said.
Right now, the proposal from the police department and school superintendent states a current officer will switch to become an SRO. That officer would cover the Taylorville Jr. and High school and get paid by the city.
Then, the district would reimburse the city about $36,000 for the SRO’s work during the school year. During the summer, the officer would work as a regular police officer.
“I think it's very important for kids,” one grandmother of two school district kids, Andra Ebert, said. “To develop a relationship with the police department so they know they have a resource to go to."
Andra said many surrounding districts already have SRO’s including Springfield, Decatur and Champaign. She said the trend and necessity is for all districts to have an officer the kids can depend on. There are few districts without SROs including the town of Morrisonville.
Alderman Vota said he’s worried about other hidden fees. One example he said was if the police department is down one officer, they may have to turn to giving other officers more overtime.
"I think the biggest one I am really concerned about, is the worker man’s comp,” Vota said.
Vota said it's possible the city would have to pay for the SRO’s worker's comp even during the school year, instead of the district.
Overall, Vota supports the idea, but knows as soon as an SRO is approved, that position will stay which is why he said he wants to make sure city can pay for it year after year.
Rian said they’re schools have seen some “scary threats” and said he just wants the city to do what they can to “keep our schools safe."
Tuesday, city leaders will review the finances for an SRO more in depth at the council meeting.
If the proposal goes through, Taylorville schools could see their first SRO next school year. The police department said they already have someone in mind. They also said the department is in a good place with the staff where one less officer won’t deter their best work.
The police department said if this proposal passes and works out, they are open to having more SROs for the Taylorville Jr. And High school.