St. Charles County using ARPA funds to place police officers in all schools

(The Center Square) – Students in all public schools in St. Charles County will notice a new person working in their building when they return to class next month.

The St. Charles County Council unanimously approved $549,140 for an additional 14 school resource officers (SROs) and an additional $1 million for equipment and miscellaneous capital expenses for one year out of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds. The original budget was for nine SROs.

The ARPA-funded plan will place SROs in all 23 public schools in unincorporated areas of the county. School districts normally share the cost of SROs. ARPA funds can be spent to address violence.

County Executive Steve Ehlmann said efforts are underway to influence municipalities within St. Charles County to pay for an SRO for each school out of ARPA funds allocated to those cities.

“I had one of the (school district) superintendents tell me he was concerned because we were going do this just in unincorporated areas and I understood his concern,” Ehlmann said during a county council meeting on June 27. “At the last Mayor-Administrator meeting we talked about this and I feel very confident the cities who also had these ARPA funds available are probably, I’m hoping anyway… it sounded to me like they’re very much interested in doing something similar to this.”

Both Ehlmann and Councilman Joe Brazil emphasized the funding will be available for one year, and additional funding must be obtained to continue the program.

“This is a great plan and a great idea,” Brazil said. “I think it’s important that we do work with the schools to fund this for the following years. This just can’t be a one and done. We’ve got to keep this up. This is very important to the security of our kids and having police in the school provides a good role model, too.”

St. Charles County started its SRO program during the 1995-96 school year as increased awareness centered on drug use and violence in schools, including the Columbine, Colorado school shootings in 1999. A media release from the county stated there had been 27 school shootings with injuries or deaths this year, the latest in May at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas.

All St. Charles County police officers receive Multi-Assault, Counter Terrorism Action Capabilities training, according to the county website. The training places officers in various true-to-life scenarios to ensure they can stop an active shooter in any situation. The 10-hour course includes school scenarios. Officers are trained on the spontaneity of incidents and on the possibly unpredictable behavior of suspects who could be heavily armed.

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