Town Agrees To Hire SROs For Smithfield Schools

SMITHFIELD – SROs (School Resource Officers) have been provided throughout Johnston County’s public-school system mostly by the Sheriff’s Department. To help the county extend that security service to every campus in Johnston, the Town of Smithfield has agreed to hire SROs for five campuses within its jurisdiction.

Even so, Johnston County Public Schools (JCPS) will put up $526,380 of that total annual expense while the town will provide the remaining $115,545. The agreement, adopted without dissent by the Smithfield Town Council Tuesday, takes effect on August 1 – in time for the start of the 2024-25 school year.

The campuses covered by the agreement include Smithfield-Selma High School, Smithfield Middle, South Smithfield Elementary, the Innovation Academy at South Campus, and the Choice Plus Academy housed in the former quarters of Smithfield Elementary School.

Not included is West Smithfield Elementary, which lies within the town’s extraterritorial planning jurisdiction but outside the town’s corporate limits. That didn’t sit well with council members during Tuesday’s consideration of the matter.

Councilman Marlon Lee pointed out that children from his East Smithfield neighborhood are bused to West Smithfield Elementary, giving the town reason to be concerned about the status of SROs there. Councilman David Barbour agreed, insisting that the town have “some conversations” with school officials to make sure West Smithfield is covered.

Chief of Police Pete Hedrick said it’s his understanding that Smithfield’s willingness to shoulder some of the burden for SROs will enable the Sheriff’s Department to bolster its services at West Smithfield and other schools that may be lacking. He also noted that three of Smithfield’s schools presently have full-time SROs.

Under the agreement with JCPS, the town will be responsible for hiring six SROs: one for each of the five campuses to be covered plus a supervising sergeant. He said those officers will be available to supplement the town’s police force when school is out or there’s need for extra emergency policing here.

Presently, the Smithfield department has seven patrol-officer vacancies – down from 13 in November when the council authorized a $5,000 hiring bonus for police slots. “Within a year we’ll be fully staffed,” Chief Hedrick told the council Tuesday.

– Story courtesy The Smithfield Weekly Sun

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