County leaders worry about cost of hiring armed officers for all

County leaders worry about cost of hiring armed officers for all schools

Posted:
"It is a lot of money. We're just going to have to find the resources," school board member Doug Harris. "It is a lot of money. We're just going to have to find the resources," school board member Doug Harris.
"I've been told it's a Nashville initiative and the money will come from Nashville. I think the big fight is going to be over who gets that money," said Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett. "I've been told it's a Nashville initiative and the money will come from Nashville. I think the big fight is going to be over who gets that money," said Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett.

By JILL MCNEAL
6 News Anchor/Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - All Knox County schools may soon have their owned armed guard, if a plan announced by the superintendent Tuesday night is approved.

It's something already in place at some elementary schools and in all high schools and middle schools. Some have more than one.

But now Dr. Jim McIntyre wants to make sure there's an officer at each elementary school as well.

The superintendent hasn't said how many officers he wants to add, where they would come from or when they would start.

There are 89 schools in Knox County, and currently, 86 officers assigned to them.

45 are employed by the school system, 24 are from the Knox County Sheriff's Office and 17 from the Knoxville Police Department.

The sheriff has already requested money in his budget to add an extra 20 school officers for an initial cost of $2 million.

School board member Doug Harris said the plan calls for adding 50 to 60 new SROs at a cost of about $1.5 million more a year.

"It is a lot of money. We're just going to have to find the resources. I think in the climate we're in, our constituents are going to expect us to come up with that money," he said.

"I've been told it's a Nashville initiative and the money will come from Nashville. I think the big fight is going to be over who gets that money," said Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett.

Right now, armed officers in schools are employed by either the school system, the sheriff's office or the police department.

"I think it would be great if all three of those bodies would get together and decide once and for all who is going to be over school security. I think that's the best way to go for the taxpayers," he said.

Burchett said if the schools have the money, he doesn't have a problem putting armed guards at elementary schools. He's been told there are currently 17 without.

"Let's look at what the overall cost is. Then they want to really bring technology up. We need to give teachers pay raises. So there's a lot we have to do and then that's just one part of our budget. We have so many other things that we're over," said Knox County Commission vice chairman R. Larry Smith.

The superintendent expects to present a formal proposal to school board members in the next few weeks. The board and the county commission must approve the school system's budget.

Armed guards aren't the only security measure the superintendent wants to beef up. He also wants video monitoring and controlled access in every school.

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