The Poquoson City Council approved the hiring of a full-time school resource officer (SRO) on Monday, two weeks after a majority of council members opted against having a work session to formally discuss school safety.
The resolution, which was passed unanimously, approves the “necessary funding” for an SRO at Poquoson High School. It also established a committee compromised of teachers, administrators, city staff and a citizen to submit further recommendations to the city council about improving safety in schools.
Kara Catlett, a parent who saw the need for an SRO program in the wake of the Parkland shooting, says there is also a need for an SRO at Poquoson Middle School.
“I ask you all tonight to put money and politics and arrogance and power and pride aside and put people and our children first,” Catlett told the council. “Could we as a community somehow help?”
Mayor Gene Hunt was in the majority on March 12 to oppose having a conversation after Councilman Thomas Cannella supported the idea of adding the officers.
Hunt told 10 On Your Side he was confident in the police department’s two-minute response time and police liaison program, which puts a sworn officer at the high school “a few hours a week,” according to Police Chief Clifford Bowen.
On Monday, Hunt changed course and voted in favor of the high school SRO.
“What happened two weeks ago and what happened tonight was not a change of heart. It was a change in timing,” said Hunt. “Council had already talked to Councilman Cannella about moving this conversation to another time. All this did was accelerate it.”
Cannella says parents have showed appreciation for him starting the conversation.
“It’s a start. It’s certainly not an end. I’m pretty optimistic about us getting it going,” said Cannella, who also supports an SRO at the middle school. “Of course. I think it’s something we should have.”
In the last week, the Poquoson School Board and York-Poquoson Sheriff Danny Diggs submitted letters to the council in support of the officers. The sheriff said an SRO is a law enforcement officers but also acts as a teacher, counselor and role model.
Chief Bowen says the cost to hire an SRO, including fringe benefits, is about $60,000.
The committee’s first deadline to submit safety recommendation to the council is April 30.