SROs and Douglas County schools: What do they cost and how many are there?

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Costs to fund a school resource officer are typically split between the law enforcement agencies providing them and the organizations receiving services.

The Douglas County School District, the state’s third largest, has agreements with local law enforcement agencies to cover half the cost of each officer. Salaries vary by jurisdiction and officer, but the average cost covered by the school district is $62,934, according to the school district.

Today, the school district says 11 resource officers from three law enforcement agencies —the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, the Parker Police Department and the Castle Rock Police Department — serve county schools. An officer’s primary coverage area is the high school he or she is assigned to, but the officer also assists at a middle school.

A resource officer is on campus at each of the district’s nine neighborhood high schools and SkyView Academy, a pre-K through 12th-grade charter school in Highlands Ranch, as well as Valor Christian, a private high school.

The schools range in size from Valor’s roughly 1,100 students to Mountain Vista’s more than 2,300.

Thirteen school marshals from four jurisdictions — the sheriff’s office and the Castle Rock, Parker and Lone Tree police departments — also serve the district. The law enforcement officers cover elementary schools but are not assigned to any particular campus. Rather, they make multiple, unannounced daily visits to various schools

That’s all in a school district of 68,000 students, roughly the population of Castle Rock.

This means some SROs are responsible for overseeing more than 2,000 high school students in addition to assisting the middle schools that feed into them. Douglas County Sheriff Tony Spurlock has said that’s not sufficient.

Previous recommendations were to place one SRO per 1,000 students, according to the National Association of School Resource Officers, but the organization recommends considering factors like campus size, school climate and location when determining a number.

NASRO Executive Director Mo Canady said less than half the nation’s 100,000 school buildings have an SRO, and some officers are responsible for overseeing five to six buildings alone. He believes that’s mostly because of a lack of funding.

“That is not effective,” Canady said. “There definitely are not enough SROs.”

NASRO challenges federal, state and local governments to fund at least one SRO for every school building in the community, he said. SROs differ from approaches like an armed guard or private security because they focus on building a stronger relationship between youth and law enforcement, Canady said. He added SROs also gather intelligence from the school community, and in some case have investigated the information and stopped acts of violence before they occurred.

Here’s a snapshot of other security measures in Douglas County schools, according to a county report compiled in April from sheriff’s office and school district sources:

• Each high school and middle school campus has on-site campus security specialists with a total of 54 unarmed security specialists. The specialists promote proactive security services and a safe school environment, according to the school district.

• A school district Dispatch Communications Center operates 24 hours a day and staffs a combination of 18 employees, armed personnel and security technicians.

• Schools are monitored by cameras, doors have locks and some windows are covered with a ballistic film — a bullet-resistant glass. Radios allow for constant communication between schools and law enforcement agencies.

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