State schools chief Tom Horne is unveiling a new program that will make it possible for every available campus law enforcement officer position to be filled, despite ongoing shortages of officers in many communities. As a result, more positions in the already-funded School Safety Program will be filled with armed law enforcement officers with no new funding required.
The department has contracted with Off Duty Management (ODM), a company that schedules off-duty officers to serve as campus School Safety Officers at multiple schools in 11 Arizona counties as part of Horne’s goal to make sure students, educators and staff are protected by armed and uniformed officers. The officers may come from participating police agencies outside of their normal service area. For example, a Peoria officer may be assigned a school located in Phoenix.
Horne said, “The problem of finding officers to fill these funded school safety positions has been solved and it is vital that schools have armed officers on campus to prevent a tragedy should a maniac try to shoot up a school. Since taking office in January of this year, I have overseen the funding for 301 officers under the School Safety Program. Today, pending the approval of districts, we can begin to fill those positions and bring as many as 138 School Safety Officers (SSO) to campuses in 11 Arizona counties because of our initiative to work with ODM, a company that specializes in finding off-duty officers and assigning them to campus safety duties.”
He added, “Using ODM means an off-duty officer from one jurisdiction can be assigned to a school that is within the jurisdiction of another law enforcement agency. With this innovation, an officer can be provided to a school even if the community where that school is located has a shortage of its own officers. Cross-jurisdictional sharing of resources makes perfect sense to use this strategy to protect children in schools.”
Among the components of this model are:
- The SSO model will be used in schools that do not have a dedicated School Resource Officer (SRO). The SSO shall perform the same duties as an SRO.
- The SSO shall work with school personnel to conduct site assessments of their respective schools and provide recommendations to reinforce a safe school environment.
- The SSO shall work with school staff and other appropriate personnel to ensure their assigned school has an updated Emergency Response Plan.
- Foster Partnerships with students, school staff, and parents to build meaningful relationships with law enforcement.
- ADE will provide 8 hours of asynchronous training within 60 days of joining the program. Work hours will be established by participating schools and it is expected that SSOs will be on campus for the entirety of their shift.