WASHINGTON – Thursday is the one-year anniversary of the Parkland, Fla. school shooting where 17 people were killed and 17 more injured at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
On the eve of the one-year anniversary of the tragic incident, Congressman Tom Reed (R-Corning, NY 23) announced that he has joined colleagues to reintroduce the School Resource Officer Act, a bipartisan piece of legislation to assist law enforcement agencies in hiring additional school resource officers (SROs).
Reed said during a conference call with regional media on Wednesday that the legislation creates a cost-share grant for local communities to pay the salaries and benefits of SROs. Reed said the funding is necessary because SROs are vital in establishing school safety.
“We use these funds in order to hire the actual police officers to be in our schools and develop relationships to not only take on threats, such as what we’ve seen in schools in the recent past, as well as to develop a resource where the police officer is in our schools developing friendships – developing a trusting mentor-ship type of relationship with many of the students – and to also be the eyes and ears for many of those students that are potentially ripe for exploitation or who are at threat in their home-life or on their street or just in their day-to-day living,” Reed said.
In explaining his support for the legislation, Reed specifically mentioned the Stoneman Douglas High School incident as an example of incidents that have become all too common in our country. But in that particular incident, an SRO was actually working at the time but still failed to properly respond to the shooter.
WRFA pointed this out to Congressman Reed and we asked him if he was in support of other legislation that could also help reduce or even eliminate the number of school shootings in the U.S.
“Because one SRO may not have performed up to expectations, it should not be a characterization of the school resource officers that we’ve met and seen across the country that perform in exemplary fashion,” Reed said, then adding, “Obviously there’s more that we can do. There are things that we have put together in the Problem Solvers’ Caucus as a package, but the heart of many of these issues that I prioritize are things like mental health, things like finding common ground so that criminals are held accountable and don’t have access to weapons, that we have the resources in our healthcare industry in that area of mental illness that many folks who perpetuate these types of incidents in our country have a common denominator with.”
As for the reintroduced SRO legislation highlighted on Wednesday, Reed said it would do a number of things, including reauthorizing the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program at the Department of Justice at $300 million each fiscal year for the next five years while also designating 30% of COPS hiring funds for grants to pay the salaries and benefits of SROs.
As part of the program, grants of up to 75% of salary would be awarded, with a 25% local match requirement. Each grant would have a Maximum federal share cap of $125,000 per officer position.
Also during his call with local media, Reed said he is prepared to support the bipartisan legislation that could avert another partial federal government shutdown and allocate approximately $1.4 billion for southern border security needs.