YOUNG HARRIS, Ga. – The 2019 Georgia Association of School Resource Officers (GASRO) conference was held at Brasstown Valley Resort in Young Harris, July 8-10, purposed to provide updated school security training and networking opportunities for school resource officers (SROs) to connect statewide.
Law enforcement officers from cities as far south as Tifton made the voyage to Towns County to attend the school safety seminar, hosted this year by Habersham County Sheriff’s Office who was chosen by GASRO as the result of “the incredible strides (they) have made in connecting with the school community, and in enhancing school safety through technology.”
Following the closure of the school security conference, FetchYourNews (FYN) was contacted by multiple law enforcement agencies who disclosed that Towns County Sheriff’s Office had declined additional training “in their own backyard.” Research revealed that Towns County Sheriff’s Office was, in fact, signed up to attend the state seminar, although no officers attended. Furthermore, Towns County Sheriff Chris Clinton was personally invited by GASRO to address participants, and in the words of a ranking officer, “refused the chance to network with other departments while representing his own jurisdiction.”
FYN reached out to Towns County Sheriff Chris Clinton, along with personnel within the agency, offering an opportunity to comment on the matter. FYN did not receive a response from the elected official. Towns County Chief Deputy Terry Conner met with FYN, however, stating that Towns County’s dual school resource officers had attended a training session in White County earlier this year, and due to staffing issues, an executive decision was made to forego the GASRO course.
Chief Deputy Conner politely declined to respond to FYN’s questions concerning Sheriff Clinton’s absence from the school security conference.
FYN received a formal statement from the chief deputy the following day.
“During the last six months, (both SROs) have completed a total of 40 training classes between the two. The State Of Georgia Peace Officer Standards Training requires officers to complete 20 hours of annual training yearly,” Chief Deputy Conner said. “Both Towns County school resource officers completed double the state required training hours during the first six months of this year. The State of Georgia Peace Officer Standards Training requires the 20 hours to include four classes; firearms requalification, use of force, de-escalation, and community policing.”
The statement read that one of the school resources officers has completed four-out-of-four of the required courses, with the second officer to complete the final two requirements in coming months. The chief deputy added that Towns County Sheriff’s Office allows officers to attend training as budget and manpower needs allow, adding that both deputies will receive the required training by year’s end.
“School Resource Officer Programs across the state are experiencing many new challenges when it comes to keeping schools safe,” Habersham County Sheriff Joey Terrell, host of the GASRO conference, explained to Now Habersham in May. “Whether it be dealing with issues that have been in the schools for years or new trends that are becoming more commonplace, it is imperative that we stay up to date on the latest technologies and training.”
The three-day course involved advancement in vital areas, including criminal investigations in campus settings, evaluation of threat assestments, students and social media, and drug interdiction.
Feature Photo: GASRO training at Brasstown Valley Resort Credit: GASRO