In the wake of the deadly shooting in Uvalde that left 19 children and two teachers dead, school safety and security has become a discussion around the nation.
In Fort Worth, the tragedy in Uvalde sparked a conversation about the future of school resource officers (SRO). At a City Council work session, Tuesday, police leaders gave an update on the current number of SROs and their training.
Currently, the Fort Worth Police Department has 64 SROs across seven school districts – the largest being Fort Worth ISD (FWISD). FWISD currently has 44 resource officers.
According to Assistant Chief Joseph Sparrow, there are SROs in every middle and high school.
Get DFW local news, weather forecasts and entertainment stories to your inbox. Sign up for NBC DFW newsletters.
“We don’t staff any elementary schools,” Sparrow said. “At most high schools there are two officers.”
Councilman Chris Nettles questioned why there were no officers at elementary schools.
“It’s not cost-effective," Sparrow explained. "I don’t know of any large agency that does elementary schools. We recently did a price projection of how much it would cost to cover all Fort Worth schools and it was like $80 million.”
The latest news from around North Texas.
Nettles said the city needs to find a way to get officers in the elementary schools.
“We cannot allow money or budget to be an issue when it comes to saving lives," Nettles said. "I don’t know how we work that or fix that, or budget that in – with just the recent tragedy, it wasn’t’ a high school, it wasn’t a middle school, it was an elementary school. We are at a state now in life where we can make a decision for a path forward. I will say – we need to consider working with the school districts and our budget to make sure we can start staffing at the elementary schools.”
Police estimate that approximately 200 more officers would need to be hired to staff elementary schools.
“Number one priority for the Fort Worth Police Department is safety and there is no group of people within our community that’s more susceptible, more innocent and in more need of protection than our children or babies,” Police Chief Neil Noakes said.
Council members will now work with FWISD and the police department to discuss future needs and funding.
“It’s not just about numbers," Noakes said. “We’re talking about lives. We’re talking about students. And we’re going to do everything we possibly can in the city of Fort Worth to make sure what has happened in other cities doesn’t happen.”
SROs are currently working with summer school sessions. In August, the current SROs will go through their annual training.
“Our SROs are some of the best trained police officers on the force,” Sparrow said. “They go through extra training to identify students that may by in crisis or something like that.”
Sparrow said the training includes active shooter, trauma and triage, and clearing schools during an incident.
“We’re there as a liaison between the police and the schools,” Sparrow said. “Sometimes they act as mentors for the students and things such as that.”