Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar announced Thursday that his department will launch a pilot program to provide trained deputies to San Antonio school districts.
Salazar said the School Resource Reserve Deputy program is an attempt to assuage parents’ fears about their children’s safety in school as school shootings make headlines.
“Right now there’s a lot of debate,” Salazar said. “Do we arm teachers, do we not arm teachers? Do we have school marshals? We’re avoiding all that and just saying, ‘Let’s put more deputies in schools.’”
At Thursday’s press conference, five officers from Salazar’s pool of reserve deputies were sworn into serving schools in the East Central and Southwest independent school districts. They will undergo state-mandated school resource officer training in the next few weeks, taught by other sheriff deputies who have already been trained.
Reserve officers with the sheriff’s office have regular day jobs, but are required to work a minimum of 16 hours a week to keep up their peace officer license, according to Salazar. They typically help with things like patrol, but the school resource officer program allows them to log hours by helping schools with law enforcement duties.
East Central and Southwest ISDs will share the five officers. Schedules have not been determined, but Salazar said he expects their duties to be flexible.
“These deputies are going to work a certain number of hours, so [the school districts] may say, ‘Spend half your time at this elementary school and then in the afternoon go to this high school,’” he said. “Or if I find out about a direct threat, I will send them all to that one school.”
While he’s expecting more school districts to sign up for the program, Salazar said he’s also trying to recruit more reserve deputy officers in his department to volunteer as school resource officers. Because they work on a volunteer basis, they save taxpayers money at the same time, he said.
“Last year, Bexar County Sheriff’s Office reserve deputies saved taxpayers $245,000,” Salazar said.
Southwest ISD Police Chief Richard Palomo said his officers, like the deputies from the Bexar County sheriff’s office, have been trained specifically to work with juveniles.
“We do a lot of mental health training, how to de-escalate kids in crisis, because you know, our schools are simply a reflection of what’s going on in our communities,” Palomo said.
Palomo said his district already has school resource officers, but they welcome any opportunity to augment security.
“I see this as a win-win for our kids,” Palomo said. “We know when you have an additional police presence, that has the tendency to deter crime.”
After his five reserve deputies finish their school resource officer training, they will start working with East Central and Southwest ISDs, Salazar said. The school resource option is open to all 48 reserve deputies in the sheriff’s office.