By Barbara Augsdorfer, Editor for the Effingham Herald
In their continuing efforts to increase school safety and keep students and staff safe, the Guyton Police Department and Effingham County Schools have teamed up to add a school resource officer to Guyton Elementary.
The school resource officer is a sworn police officer who can and will do police duties when necessary, according to Guyton Police Chief James Breletic. However, at the same time, the SRO is at the school to show the children the protective and human side of the police officer.
“Basically, the school resource officer is bridging the gap between the youth, school officials, teachers, and personnel that work at the school because (children) get to see the police officer other than in a police car stopping somebody,” Chief Breletic explained. “The (officer is) more humanized. And the children at that young age also look toward (the officer) as the protective body they need to be.”
Effingham County Schools pays 75% of the officer’s salary and benefits and the city of Guyton pays the other 25%. The same split applies to the cost of the police vehicle.
“As part of contract, we pay 75% as part of our partnership to help keep our schools and community safe,” said Dr. Yancy Ford, Effingham County Schools superintendent.
The SRO at Guyton is a new hire for the city, but has 30 years of experience as a police officer, according to Chief Breletic.
“We are purchasing a 2021 Police Interceptor Ford that'll be equipped with blue lights, sirens, marking on the side, cage and equipment that's used for the police department,” Breletic said. “A regular police vehicle.” The total cost of the vehicle is just over $50,600.
And just the vehicle’s presence at the school will aid in school safety.
“A law enforcement vehicle parked at the front (of the school) helps out as a deterrence a lot,” Breletic added. “Because when somebody goes to a school and they see a law enforcement vehicle, they don't know where the law enforcement officer is located.”
School resource officers are at the school during school hours Monday through Friday. Breletic said officers may be pulled periodically from the school for other duties, for example, to make a brief appearance a senior citizen’s event where he can introduce the SRO to show the seniors that their grandkids are safe at school.
When the Herald talked with Chief Breletic on Friday, he said he was on his way to purchase the vehicle.
“I have to get three bids to have it equipped per our purchasing policy,” Breletic said. Whomever wins the bid will equip and paint the vehicle to match the rest of the department’s fleet. “Then I inspect the vehicle and everything else. We're not rushing at anything fast. We want to make sure it's done right.”