Hope Mills Police Chief, Town Manager stunned by sheriff pulling deputies out of schools

Monique John Image
Thursday, May 30, 2024
Hope Mills town leaders surprised by loss of SROs
Hope Mills, its police department and Cumberland County Schools have to figure out if and how they will fill vacated SRO positions.

HOPE MILLS, N.C. (WTVD) -- The Hope Mills police chief and town manager are speaking out after the Cumberland County Sheriff decided to pull resource officers and crossing guards from the town's public schools, as well as all other towns in Cumberland County.

That means the town, its police department, and Cumberland County Schools have to figure out if and how they will fill those roles.

Hope Mills Police Chief Stephen Dollinger and Town Manager Chancer McLaughlin said the sheriff's decision came as a big surprise. Chief Dollinger also said Sheriff Ennis Wright is doing this because of the sheriff's staffing concerns for his own department. Officials said understaffing not only created this problem but is leading to questions over how to now staff these positions for school resource officers and crossing guards.

"We have the same kind of issues the sheriff has, which is staffing, staffing concerns. Because there's seven schools here in Hope Mills, so we would have to supply resource officers for those seven schools in addition to supplemental folks here in the building," Dollinger said.

Dollinger said he received a letter last Tuesday from Wright announcing his decision to pull his deputies out of schools--just like Fayetteville's police department.

Spring Lake is getting SROs and crossing guards pulled from CCS schools there, too. McLaughlin said the change is having a big impact, but that he, the police department, and the board of commissioners are focused on finding a path forward.

"I look at it as a challenge that we can be one of the first municipalities to actually get ahead of this and find something that's amenable for the safety of our kids and all our citizens."

Dollinger noted that it's ultimately up to McLaughlin, the town manager, and the Hope Mills Board of Commissioners to decide whether to keep staffing SROs in public schools. Depending on what they decide, the chief said his department will follow suit.

You can learn more about the situation at the public board meeting at the Hope Mills Town Hall at 6 pm.