New grant puts 157 trained officers on patrol in MS schools

HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - On Friday, the state Board of Education approved the distribution of $1.57 million to 50 school districts across Mississippi. Fifteen South Mississippi school districts will be getting a large chunk of that grant money to beef-up campus security. Earlier this year, the state legislature approved funding to put more trained officers in our public schools.

From maintaining security to mentoring students, school resource officers have become a vital part of campus life. The Harrison County School District currently has 15 SROs who patrol 22 campuses. It's through a partnership with the sheriff's department, and the Gulfport and D'Iberville Police Departments.

"They're very valuable to the school district. They help us feel secure with the way things are going in America today," said Harrison County Schools Superintendent Henry Arledge.

The new Mississippi Community Oriented Policing Services in Schools (MCOPS) grant will put 157 additional trained officers on duty this year in school districts across Mississippi. The grant provides up to $10,000 to pay the salary and benefits for each officer. The districts will cover the remaining costs.

Harrison County will receive the largest amount: $180,000.

"It's a lot of money and we're very proud of it. We're very appreciative. We think this is a very good law. It's one way that our tax dollars are being spent that's very appropriate," said Arledge.

The state legislature passed the law following the deadly shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut last year. The attack left 20 children and six adults dead.

During a law enforcement graduation ceremony in Biloxi Friday, the governor expressed his support for the grant.

"It gives them the actual funding, so they won't have to cut a teacher. They won't have to reduce school supplies. They won't have to reduce transportation. The state is affording them the funds to help provide for that law enforcement officer there in the rare case, we hope it never is, where they have an active shooter in our school system," said Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant.

"I think it just makes people feel safer. That should make parents realize that we're trying to provide all the safety we possibly can for their children while they're in our care," said Arledge.

Several other superintendents told WLOX News they plan to use their grant money to cover the salaries of current SROs, provide more training for officers and staff, and enhance safety and security features, like installing security cameras and electronic doors.

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