Henry Police taking on resource officer duties for county schools

The Henry County Commission last Tuesday approved an intergovernmental agreement with the county school system to use Henry Police officers as school resource officers.

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The Henry County Commission last Tuesday approved an intergovernmental agreement with the county school system to use Henry Police officers as school resource officers.

Henry County’s police department is taking over resource officer duties for the south metro Atlanta community’s schools this academic year.

But they’ll start the year short-staffed. Only high schools will get school resource officers or SROs when classes begin Aug. 3.

The police department doesn’t have the staff to immediately cover all of Henry’s schools, Henry Police Chief Mark Amerman told the Henry County Commission last week. Instead the department will phase in officers, with the high schools getting them first and then the middle schools in October.

“We’re working to” get sufficient staffing, Amerman said.

The news comes as districts across the metro area and the nation are fretting about school security> Their concerns have been heightened by the May massacre of 19 students and two teachers at a Uvalde, Texas, elementary school.

Nearby Clayton County and Rockdale County school systems have mandated students carry clear book bags to class and Cobb County plans to allow some district employees to carry weapons, though teachers will not be among the armed.

Henry Commissioner Dee Clemmons said she hopes Henry Police can expedite the hiring process and get resource officers in the middle schools at the same time as their high schools peers. She said failing that could leave schools vulnerable.

“I’m kind of thrown off that they are not covered,” she said. ‘It’s going to be important we cover those middle schools starting out with the school year. Parents are going to be blowing up my phone and everybody’s else’s phone if those schools are not covered.”

It was unclear if SROs would come to elementary schools.

The staffing challenges were revealed during the Henry County Commission’s approval of an intergovernmental agreement between the board and Henry Schools that would allow the Henry Police to provide security for the district. The cost for the 2022-2023 school year will be about $2.2 million.

Henry Police are taking on the duties after the Henry County Sheriff’s Office, which had overseen resource officer duties for the school system since 2012, told the school board in June it would no longer take part in the district’s security in part because of staffing issues.

“I cannot overstress the importance of and what a key component our school resource officers are in the overall safety of our schools and our community, Henry County Schools Superintendent Mary Elizabeth Davis said in a news release.

“We have always valued the relationship with the sheriff’s office to provide our schools with resource officers, and we are appreciative of them for working with us to find solutions to our need to increase officer numbers across our district,” Davis said.