Both of Scott County’s school districts are in the process of having school resource officers in each of their buildings.
Until all of them are trained, officials have reached out to area agencies to provide security detail at the schools on their days off.
The officers would drive their police car and wear their uniform, which both are owned by the communities where they work, but they would be paid by the school district and covered by its insurance.
Scott County School District 1 in Austin has one SRO and is in the process of hiring another one. Scott County School District 2 in Scottsburg has an SRO at the high school and will soon have one at the elementary and middle schools.
District 2’s rural elementary schools — Johnson, Lexington and Vienna — also are getting officers trained to be SROs.
That’s where outside agencies come into play. On a temporary basis, Clark and Jennings counties already have officers providing security detail, but more officers are being requested, including from the Brownstown Police Department.
“The last three weeks, there have been whole days where they’ve not had coverage, and the people are very frustrated,” Brownstown Detective Jac Sanders said of the rural Scott County elementary schools. “People want their kids covered. They want law enforcement on the premises.”
During Monday’s Brownstown Town Council meeting, Sanders said the main goal of the officers would be to interact with students and bring up morale of police in their eyes.
“That’s the reason why they want us there — public relations,” he said.
If something criminal takes place, a fight breaks out or there’s an active shooter situation, the officers would secure the situation and contact local law enforcement to respond and take over.
“Because they are not actually SROs,” Sanders said. “We’re an off-duty security detail or safety detail.”
Sanders said he has provided security detail in Scott County for two years, and it’s a good way to earn extra money.
“They pay us really well,” he said. “They take care of all of the paperwork for you. You just go in, you sign up, you become a part-time employee of the county, they pay your taxes, they do all of that stuff for you. You don’t have to worry about anything. It’s probably the best off-duty security detail I’ve ever really been a part of.”
Officers from the Brownstown, Crothersville and Seymour police departments and Jackson County Sheriff’s Department continue to provide security at Schneck Medical Center in Seymour. That also is outside their full-time law enforcement job, and they are paid by the hospital.
Brownstown Police Chief Tom Hanner said he hasn’t yet approved his officers to do security detail in Scott County. He first ran it by Councilman Gary Drake, who serves as a liaison for the police department, and he advised Hanner to bring it up at Monday’s council meeting.
“My personal feelings on it, if it helps our guys and it doesn’t impede the job they are doing for this town, I personally don’t have a problem with it,” Drake said. “If it helps these guys and puts a little bit more money in their pocket and it’s not hurting us, I see it as an incentive to keep the officers we’ve got instead of keep going to other towns.”
An officer recently gave his two week’s notice because he’s going to another department that offers better pay and benefits.
“I’d like to see us do whatever we can do to put an end to that. We’re losing good people,” Drake said. “I would like to be able to let our guys (provide the security detail) because it helps them financially.”
Council President Sally Lawson said the council has worked hard in recent years to increase officers’ pay rates, and Drake acknowledged that.
“I think the council has been as generous as we can afford to be with our police department, and I personally appreciate that on the part of the council,” he said. “I’m just saying if this is not a problem for us as a community to let these guys do (security detail), then it seems to me it would be a win-win situation if it puts them in a position to make a little extra money.”
Drake said he realizes Brownstown can’t compete with bigger cities that can offer police officers better pay, insurance and benefits, but he doesn’t want to see other good officers leave the town for those reasons.
Town attorney Travis Thompson suggested the council contact the town’s insurance carrier to ensure the officers would be covered since they would be traveling outside the county and wearing and using town-owned property off the clock. The council agreed to move forward with those suggestions.
Lawson said she doesn’t have a problem with the officers providing security detail while off duty, but her only concern is them using their police cars.
Councilman Mark Reynolds said he wants to make sure the town is covered in the event an officer is injured or damages his car while doing security detail.
“I would love for you guys to be able to go do it,” he said. “I’m just worried about protecting the town. We’ve got to think about the town here.”