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Jefferson County Public Schools Is Putting Resource Police Officers in a Few More Buildings

More police will be working in schools within the Jefferson County Public School district next year.

Funds coming from a federal grant will allow the Louisville Metro Police department to send school resource officers to five additional schools when classes resume in the fall, said Stan Mullen, the director of student safety at JCPS.

The additional officers will bump up to 27 the number of school resource officers provided by outside agencies to JCPS.  Of the current 22 school resource officers, 12 are from LMPD and eight are from the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office. Jeffersontown and St. Matthews police departments each send a school resource officer to high schools in those cities.

JCPS also hires two district school resource offices to work in alternative schools Breckenridge Metro and Liberty High.

Four JCPS schools hire off-duty police officers—who have not received school resource officer training—to work in schools.  Those officers are funded through the individual school’s general budget, Mullen said.  The schools that hire off-duty police officers are Breckenridge Metro, Western Middle, Kennedy Metro and Buechel High.

The new school resource officers for next school year will be stationed at Frost Middle School, Portland Elementary, Olmstead North, Westport Middle and Atkinson Elementary.

For the first time, full-time school resource officers are being placed in JCPS elementary schools, said Mullen.

Here's where JCPS will have school resource officers in 2014-15. The red markers are the new additions:

Mullen said cost is the main reason more JCPS schools don't have resource officers.

“Personally and professionally, I would like to see them in all 155 or so schools, but we are only going to have 27," he said. "it’s all about money."

The federal grant funding the five new school resource officers possible will last three to five ears, Mullen said.  After that, negotiations will be carried out between LMPD and JCPS to decide what the cost will be for the partnership to continue.

Under current agreements, JCPS provides $324,000 to LMPD for 12 officers and $320,000 to the sheriff’s  office for eight deputies. The school district also provides $15,000 to Jeffersontown Police for an officer, Mullen said.  St. Matthews police provides the funding for the an officer at Waggener High School, he added.

He said it is “very expensive” to provide schools with resource officers, but it's worth the cost.

“It’s not a matter of if something happens, it is a matter of when something significant is going to happen,” said Lt. Alejandro Cabrera, the commander of the school resource officer unit for LMPD.

The officers will work with students as educators and counselors, Cabrera said.

Their main job is providing additional safety. The school resource officer is entrusted with the responsibility of ensuring no one is on school grounds that shouldn’t be.  They are also responsible for protecting teachers, students and other personnel from violent acts, such as fights, Cabrera said.

He added that the current LMPD school resource officers just last month took part in nearly 80 hours of training specifically tailored to working in a school environment.

Cabrera said working in a school as a police officer takes “a lot of discretion and common sense.”

“We don’t want the SROs to be looked as school disciplinarians, that’s not what our job is,” Cabrera said.

Jacob Ryan is the managing editor of the Kentucky Center for Investigative reporting. He's an award-winning investigative reporter who joined LPM in 2014. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.