Chapin town leadership leaning toward taking over resource officer positions at Chapin High School
Chapin, SC (Paul Kirby) – At a recent work session of the Chapin town council, the feedback on moving the responsibility of the two school resource officers from the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department to the Chapin PD seemed all positive. This issue came up after Lexington County Sheriff Jay Koon approached the town about taking over the responsibilities in the past few months. The high school is within the town’s limits, but is currently served by SROs from the county.
Chapin Police Chief Seth Zeigler explained to the council that Lexington-Richland School District Five would absorb 75% of the cost in the first year. This includes the salaries of the two officers, their full equipment, and their vehicles. Zeigler told the council that the SROs would have to attend a short course at the state criminal justice academy and there would be little, or no cost associated with that.
The chief explained that a school is much like a small city, and the SRO acts as the police chief of that city. Because of these extra responsibilities, Chief Zeigler said that the current contract with the school district allocates a minimum starting salary for an SRO of $42,500 per year. This is a bit more than a regular patrol officer makes, but it’s meant to offset the extra responsibilities and duties the SRO’s have.
Chief Zeigler said that he feels it would be a good move to have Chapin officers in the school. First, it would allow the department to build relationships with the students. This could be beneficial in several ways. The students would be more willing to talk with the officers about the personal problems they're facing in their lives, and they could also provide intelligence about what’s happening on and off campus. Councilmen Mike Clonts echoed Zeigler’s sentiments saying, “I like the idea of our officers working with our teens.” Councilman Al Koon agreed, but said the town would have to carefully look at their budget to see if they could find their part of the funds to pay for the officers now, and in the coming years.
Zeigler said that one other benefit to the town would be that the town’s SROs would be available for other duties when they weren’t committed at the school. This means they could fill in during the summer months when other officers are on vacation or sick. They would also be used to supplement patrols at times when most crimes are committed.
Mayor Knight asked Chief Zeigler what time frame they had to make a decision on the matter. Zeigler said that the sheriff would need an answer in the next few months, as he is preparing his new budget now for the 2018/2019 fiscal year. Zeigler said it would take several months for him to be able to hire and equip the necessary officers. The council plans to continue this discussion in meeting over the coming weeks before making a final decision.