Edgecombe sheriff adds school resource officers
BY LINDELL JOHN KAY
Sunday, February 3, 2019
TARBORO — Retired Edgecombe County deputies are helping keep middle schools safe thanks to a new state grant.
"We have three retired deputies covering the five middle schools," said Sgt. Joe Cofield of the Edgecombe County Sheriff’s Office, who supervises the county's school resource officers.
The retired deputies spend time every day at each school on a rotating basis.
"They spend fours in the morning then four hours in the afternoon at another school," Cofield said.
The five middle schools in Edgecombe are:
■ Martin Millennium Academy on Johnston Street in Tarboro.
■ WA Pattillo Middle School on East Avenue in Tarboro.
■ Phillips Middle School on Battleboro-Leggett Road in the Battleboro community.
■ South Edgecombe Middle School on Pinetops-Crisp Road in Pinetops.
■ West Edgecombe Middle School on Nobles Mill Pond Road in Rocky Mount.
Also since the retired deputies are now in the middle schools, Cofield is free to spend more time in the county's elementary schools.
Cofield and Cpl. Elwood Whitaker, the county's D.A.R.E. officer, talk with elementary student about drugs and other topics.
"Cpl. Whitaker talks with the kids a lot about bullying," Cofield said.
Sheriff Clee Atkinson said he is grateful to Valerie Bridges, superintendent of Edgecombe County Public Schools, for working to get coverage for the middle schools.
Atkinson first brought up the need for resource officers in the middle schools in July.
“In (light) of all the recent shootings across America and our concern for all our students and school personnel across Edgecombe County, we have listed a few suggestions we feel would assist in making our schools safer,” Atkinson stated in a letter to Bridgers.
Atkinson suggested then that the school district place a full-time SRO in all middle schools and high schools. At the time, the school district was using grant money from the state Department of Public Instruction to pay for 40 hours of coverage shared across all middle schools in the district.
Atkinson also outlined ways to possibly staff the positions such as hiring five retired deputies on a contract basis for $25 an hour to staff schools. This proposal would cost the school district roughly $1,000 a day or $176,000 a year, Atkinson said.
While that wasn't possible, a new grant has allowed for the part-time resource officers to spread their time across the schools.
Atkinson also made several other suggestions, including more extensive active-shooter training and gang-recognition training for school staff, random checks with a metal detector, banning book bags at schools, hiring a full-time truancy officer to do home checks for missing students, providing teachers with radios for communications, offering better mental health options and providing a confidential tip line for students to report threats and dangerous activity.