Horry County Police Chief responds to school resource officer decision

CONWAY, SC (WBTW) – The Horry County School Board voted unanimously Monday night to hire a private security company to protect its schools, removing Horry County Police officers from the school resource officer positions.

Board members had the option to choose between sourcing officers from the Horry County Police Department or the private security company.The estimated annual cost for 18 armed guards from U.S. Security Associates (USSA) is $550,000 for the 2017-2018 school year. The cost of utilizing 18 officers, 1 “rover” and two sergeants through the Horry County Police Department was estimated at $1,650,000.

Horry County Police Chief Joseph Hill released a statement Wednesday morning voicing his disappointment in the vote but gave a positive forecast for how to officers will be utilized in the future. Chief Hill’s complete statement is below:

“While I am disappointed in the school board’s decision to remove the School Resource Officers, I will use these positions to strengthen our community relations and crime fighting efforts. Their presence in the school is more than just a visible deterrent to criminal activity. The SRO’s serve as mentors and coaches to our youth while impacting their lives in ways that will leave a positive and lasting impression. These officers are passionate about their role in the schools and I expect to lose a few as a result of this decision. The reassignment of the SROs is forthcoming, but our plan is to use these officers in a patrol and community engagement capacity. Despite the outcome, HCPD is dedicated to the safety and security of all students and will continue supporting the youth in our community. We take their safety and security seriously and will redesign our response plan to a school event working with the new security.”

Horry County Schools officials say the new guards will take several training courses in U.S. Security Basic Training, School Safe/Security Training, Active Shooter, Advanced Liability and Legal Aspects, Anti-Terrorism Training and mandated SLED training before to best protect the students.

The vote to remove Horry County Police officers from the SRO positions came after county leaders said they wanted more money from the school board to pay the SRO’s salaries.

The county and school board split the cost of putting officers in the schools – each entity paying an equal 50% of the school resource officer’s salary. In March, county leaders expressed the desire for the school board to foot 90% of the bill.

USSA District Manager Edward Leitgeb made a presentation to Horry County Schools leaders.

“We want our children to be safe, we want them to be secure in their environment while they’re there, but we want our officers to be friendly also. We want the children to approach them,” said Leitgeb.

Leitgeb says USSA recruits heavily from retired military and current and retired law enforcement officials.