Montgomery County seeks to add new police positions at its high schools

All 25 of Montgomery County’s high schools may soon have a police officer on campus.

With a final budget vote expected soon, county officials say there is strong support from both the Montgomery County Council and County Executive Isiah Leggett for beefing up Montgomery’s ranks of school resource officers (SROs).

The budget proposal for the fiscal year that begins July 1 includes 10 new positions -- which would come in addition to the 12 already on the books and the three positions supported by the cities of Rockville and Gaithersburg and the county sheriff’s department.

Montgomery County Council President Craig L. Rice (D-Upcounty) said this week nothing is certain until May 22, when the budget gets a final vote, but that there is broad agreement. “I’m 99.9 percent sure that we’re ready to go,” he said.

Leggett’s budget proposal at first recommended a smaller increase — two additional positions — but was expanded in late April. More county resources were available than expected, and interest was high, said spokesman Patrick Lacefield.

If the expansion is approved, the program would be restored in large part to its level before the fallout from the recession led to deep cuts in 2010. Montgomery used to have an officer in every high school and in two middle schools.

“I think it’s phenomenal,” said Susan Burkinshaw, a PTA leader active on the issue.

County officials said the officers could be in place by the start of the next school year.

Montgomery boosted by six its designated SRO positions last year following the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

At the time of Sandy Hook, Montgomery stood out among large districts in the region for having relatively few police in schools; it had six.

Fairfax County schools now have 53 SROs, and Loudoun County schools have 27, officials said this week. In both districts, there are officers at all middle and high schools.

Prince George’s has 22 county and municipal police officers assigned to schools.

Many school systems also have unarmed security personnel, including Prince George’s and Montgomery, each of which have more than 200 such employees.

Donna St. George writes about education, with an emphasis on Montgomery County schools.
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