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SROs at Camden schools may return to CPD

Posted: May 23, 2013 4:28 p.m.
Updated: May 24, 2013 5:00 a.m.

After nearly a decade of being positions within the Kershaw County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO), three school resource officer (SRO) slots at schools inside Camden’s city limits may return to being Camden Police Department (CPD) officers.

That decision came out of a Kershaw County Council work session held specifically about the issue of SRO funding. Kershaw County Sheriff Jim Matthews has previously told council he would be taking the SROs out of Camden High School (CHS), Camden Middle School (CMS) and the Continuous Learning Center (CLC). He said Tuesday that he would make two of the road deputies and transfer the other to act as an SRO at ATEC.

Council, in turn, decided Tuesday that it wants to allot the funds connected with those positions -- approximately $125,000 -- to the city of Camden to use to hire SROs for the three schools. The city has said it will administer the program within the city of Camden if the county provided the funding for the 2013-14 fiscal year. Council said the money will be transferred from the sheriff’s budget into the city’s budget, if the city SRO funding is included in second and third readings of the budget.

According to Councilman Tom Gardner, the Kershaw County School District (KCSD) prefers for the SRO contracts to go to the city as a direct service rather than the school district, which would have to contract the positions out. If council decides to transfer the funds to the city, funding would be higher during the first year to account for equipment and other costs, and the slightly less in subsequent years.

During the work session, Matthews said he is for having SROs but that it makes more sense to transfer the responsibility to the city.

“If there’s an issue at one of the city schools, the city responds to it anyways,” Matthews said.

Councilman Stephen Smoak asked why Camden wasn’t being dealt with in the same way that Elgin is in terms of SROs in the Elgin schools. Matthews said that the Elgin police force isn’t as equipped to deal with issues as the CPD.

“The bottom line is that there won’t be SROs in the schools if we don’t take action,” Councilman Jimmy Jones said.

Smoak said, however, that he is still open to considering Matthews’ budget.

Matthews said he had hoped to keep the SRO funds for other purposes. He also said he is “losing people” and had lost another member of his force earlier Tuesday to a higher-paying position elsewhere. Matthews said this growing loss in personnel in the KCSO is having a negative impact on the force.

He said he hopes to receive the funds in order to give pay increases to those currently employed and higher overtime compensation.

Although the budget is currently balanced for the coming fiscal year, the state’s funding of local governments is still an unresolved issue in Columbia. That means the “balanced budget is no longer,” according to County Administrator Vic Carpenter. Local government funding could take a hit of anywhere from $110,000 to $200,000 to Kershaw County.

“Essentially it’s going to affect people,” Carpenter said.

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