Columbia County School District increases resource officer positions

Published: Aug. 1, 2022 at 11:14 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA COUNTY. (WRDW/WAGT) - The Columbia County School District is taking steps to keep your students safe this school year.

They’ve created a police force for their school resource officers.

The district hired more police officers before the first day of school, and they say their new officers are qualified with plenty of experience.

Since 2018, the district staffs at least one resource officer for every school in the county. With the need for more security, they decided to add more.

We spoke with the captain of the Columbia County School District force to understand why they need more officers.

They’re going into every school in the district, with two going at every high school. A group of 36 school resource officers has a combined 700 years of experience with law enforcement, which allows them to make a change going into this school year.

“We are a more full-service police station than in past years,” said Captain Gary Owens.

The main function of the district police used to be more to report and assist the sheriff’s office, but now they’re taking a more active role in handling investigations.

Since the summer, it’s been anything but a break for them.

“We had to start from the ground up, starting with the SOP, making sure we have everything in place, having the meetings with the sheriff’s office, with the chiefs of police to ensure that we are prepared for this challenge,” he said.

A challenge they’re taking on is to help break the stigma surrounding police officers and help build a relationship between officers and kids in the community.

“We want to be engaged with the students, know them on a daily basis, know their names, so if there’s something out of order, we can say ‘Hey are you OK?’ and they’ll feel comfortable,” said Owens.

Even though they are a self-sufficient agency now, there is still backup when it’s needed.

“We still do have the sheriff’s office and local police departments that we will be engaging with and being community partners with and need be will work together,” he said.

They’ve already worked together to train for different emergency scenarios, like active shooters.

“Geared toward that incident, we pray that never would happen in our schools, but we want to be ready, and we are ready, and we’ve been training to make sure that our officers are competent, capable, and willing to take that challenge,” he said.

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