MISSOULA – The Missoula County Sheriff’s Office is set to add a couple of new school resource officers (SROs) but those deputies might have a few extra responsibilities.
Missoula County commissioners approved a budget amendment on Wednesday morning that would make room for two additional sheriff’s deputies for its SRO program. It’s a move Missoula County citizens say will help improve safety at area schools.
“In terms of the SRO, I’m sure you can speak more eloquently than I can to it. I don’t think
that there are a lot of data about safety in schools and what can [do to] reduce that, but my understanding is a law enforcement presence actually does. So, I can be more in favor of that. I think that’s great,” Target Range resident Kristin Anderson said.
Funding for the new positions will partly come from the taxpayers which will equal out to about 99¢ to every $100,000 of taxable value. The Sheriff’s Office along with the Frenchtown School District will contribute about $70,000 to the program to help with the initial costs of the new positions.
“Budgets are tight and it’s tough. It’s a big ask — two new positions. And we are very appreciative that it was approved today. But we also wanted to step up and utilize the resources that we had available to cover someone — time costs money,” Missoula County Sheriff TJ McDermott said.
“Another good thing with this is [the] Frenchtown School District has offered some partial funding for one of the SRO positions and that’s going to be helpful,” he continued. “And as the program moves forward we will probably continue to look for other funding sources as well. So, it’s a good thing it all came together.”
Wednesday’s approved motion to add two new sheriffs deputies as SROs comes at the end of the school year. So while school is not in session, those deputies will still be kept busy patrolling Missoula County’s vast network of outdoor recreation sites like the Maclay
Bridge area and the Kona Fishing Access Site.
“What once was at one point a handful of people on a beach is now a tremendous amount of use at a whole lot of recreation sites along our river that are often pioneered. I mean these aren’t sanctioned river sites — these are pioneered sites,” Missoula County Commissioner Josh Slotnick said.
“People expect a certain base level of public safety and that’s our primary responsibility to provide that and at these places. We are not providing that. Folks come here expecting that they can visit these places we are talking about and remain safe,” he continued.
“If we let these places become even wilder than what they are, we do this at our peril. Not just for the public safety of the people who visit these places but because we as an entirety become less attractive,” Slotnick concluded.