Update: Federal grant could give schools more resource officers, - WNCT

Update: Federal grant could give schools more resource officers, but local money is needed

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GREENVILLE, N.C. -

Pitt County school leaders now have more time to decide whether they want to invest money in more school resource officers.

Last week, Pitt County Sheriff Neil Elks announced he wants to apply for a 225-thousand dollar federal grant. It would pay for 6 more officers in rural county schools for the next 3 years.

The deadline for the grant was supposed to be this week. But the sheriff said a computer glitch at the U.S. Department of Justice extended it until June 4th.   

Members of the school board's human resources and finance committees plan to discuss the investment at a joint session next Tuesday.

--- Original Story ---

When it comes to sending your children off to school, safety is a top priority.

But school resource officers cost money and some school systems just don't have it. And when it comes to school violence, Pitt County Sheriff Neil Elks says he's most concerned for students in the schools located outside of Greenville.

"It could take a deputy, if he's out of place, it could take him 10 minutes to get there," Sheriff Elks says. "A lot of damage can occur in 10 minutes."

So he decided to take action. This week he announced he wants to apply for a $225,000 Community Oriented Policing federal grant that would pay for 6 more school resource officers for three years.

"By us being there and our presence there, I feel like we prevent something from happening," Sheriff Elks says.

But there's one catch: It would require a 25 percent local match, which equates to 75,000 from the cash-strapped school system.

At Wednesday's county commissioner budget presentation, Superintendent Beverly Emory said she supported the idea of more officers, but said the sheriff did not give her enough time to seek approval for the matching money.

"I'm going to be very blunt," Emory said. "When me spending $3,500 on an investigator in an athletic eligibility issue gets drug through the media, I'm a little reluctant walking out the door to commit $60,000 or so of money without my board committees having an opportunity to have some conversation about that."

So 9 On Your Side took her concern to Sheriff Elks. He says he understands Emory's frustration with the 24-hour notice. But he explains he only found out about the grant a few days before the deadline and he didn't want to miss his chance to provide such a valuable resource.

"My philosophy is rather than sitting back and saying I wish we'd applied for it, we want to go forward and see if we get it," he says.

Right now the school system has nine deputies and five Greenville police officers who split time between several schools. Pitt County Schools Public Information Officer Brock Letchworth says the money to pay for the police officers comes from a grant provided by the police department. However, the school system must pay about $618,000 for the deputies each year.

Sheriff Elks says it's still not too late for the school board to agree to the matching funds. Board members are scheduled to meet this Monday, but the topic of school resource officers are not on the agenda, so there's no guarantee they will talk about the option.    

Check back on www.wnct.com next week for updates.

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