Wake Co. sheriff recommends schools get their own police - WNCN: News, Weather

Wake Co. sheriff recommends schools get their own police

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Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison says the school system should consider creating their own police department. Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison says the school system should consider creating their own police department.
RALEIGH, N.C. -

With 150,000 students and growing, does Wake County Schools now need its own police department? One law enforcement official says yes. 

Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison told the Wake County School Board Tuesday night it was time to start thinking about creating its own force as the demands on local law enforcement agencies keeps growing.

"It's just that we have grown so fast that we need to look at something differently that what we're looking at," Harrison said.

Right now, local police and the sheriff's office manage school resource officers in the county.  That's a total of 64 SROs scattered across nine different law enforcement agencies, all with their own policies and chains of command.

Harrison said the county schools should have a consistent policy to mandate how emergency drills are performed, how security cameras are operated, and to monitor how people enter and exit school buildings.

"Why not be consistent?" Harrison asked. "Why not have the right police department in there? Somebody that's looking after all of our schools, somebody that knows the day to day operations of all of our schools."

Just two other school systems in North Carolina, Charlotte-Mecklenburg and Moore County, operate their own police forces.

In Charlotte, a school spokesperson says the system splits some of the cost of their 49 officers and one sergeant with the city during the school year, with the city picking up the full tab when school is not in sesssion. In next year's budget, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools is on the hook for 80 percent of the total cost -- for them -- totaling $5.3 million.

Harrison said just starting a new police force will carry a significant price tag with having to cover the cost of new equipment and vehicles.

"It's just like a town getting their own police department," he said.

When asked about it on Tuesday night, Wake County's incoming superintendent, Jim Merrill, said it was too soon to form an opinion on the issue.

"I can't tell you what might be appropriate for this system right now," Merrill said.

But Harrison said Wake County will only get bigger, and it's time to rethink how the county protects its children in a consistent way.

"And they're doing it as one umbrella," Harrison said. "Right now there's nine umbrellas there, and it's going to continue to grow."

Derick Waller

Derick is a reporter for WNCN covering crime, education, politics and just about everything in between. He has a knack for adapting to any story and consistently delivers information quickly across multiple platforms. More>>

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