Proposal would remove some officers from Durham County schools

May 3, 2013 4:11:19 AM PDT
Durham city leaders say a tight budget is forcing them to pull officers from elementary schools. Critics say that puts the safety of young students in jeopardy.

Originally there were talks of cutting ten officers. However, that number has been lowered to five, which is still too many for some.

"I don't want to be one of those parents in the situation were my child gets hurt," said parent Keisha Austin.

It all started with a suggestion by Durham City Manager Tom Bonfield to remove some law enforcement officers to help fill a $2.4 million budget shortfall. The cuts would save about $400,000.

"I don't want to think about Officer Mohr not being a part of our school family," said C.C. Spaulding Elementary School Principal Kecia Rogers. "She's such a vital part."

Bonfield wasn't available to speak with ABC11 but his office said, "It's premature to talk as if it's a done deal."

Parents are confused why the city would even be weighing out this option considering how others district are looking to ramp up security after the Sandy Hook Elementary shootings.

"How are we making sure our kids are safe every day?," asked parent Charles Wells.

The city and the school district have an agreement on how many city officers in the program are dispersed in elementary and middle schools. That contract expires at the end of June.

It can be extended or terminated with 30 days notice from either party.

The district wants to increase law enforcement presence, not decrease it. They said adding the value of the position is immeasurable.

"The relationships are very important," said Rogers. "The relationships with our students, with our staff, and our families. Our families know our officer."

The city manager will be formally presenting his budget proposal on May 20.

The superintendent says, if the city proceeds with this cut, he'll request county funding to maintain the level of police presence.

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