Sheriff’s office eyes increased Livingston school patrols

— Livingston Parish public schools soon may have four additional sheriff’s deputies patrolling campuses throughout the parish.

The new school resource officers — commissioned law enforcement officers assigned to provide full-time security for a school or group of schools — would join three others currently patrolling schools in Denham Springs, Walker and Watson.

The Denham Springs and Walker officers are members of their respective city police departments, while the Watson officer is a Livingston Parish sheriff’s deputy.

Following months of discussion with school officials, Sheriff Jason Ard on Thursday presented the School Board with a proposal outlining a plan for patrolling all the district’s 44 schools, the policies and procedures to be implemented and a cost breakdown for providing the additional deputies.

Ard said each deputy will cost the Sheriff’s Office just under $79,000 per year in salary and benefits. He proposes that the School Board cover half the expense, not only for the four added deputies but also for the sheriff’s deputy currently patrolling the Live Oak schools in Watson.

The Sheriff’s Office currently pays all expenses associated with the Live Oak deputy, Ard said.

The two police officers in Denham Springs and Walker schools are provided at their respective police departments’ expense.

Ard said the five sheriff’s deputies would work closely with the Denham Springs and Walker police officers to ensure all the district’s schools are secure.

“When the Denham Springs officer is on vacation, one of our deputies could step in for those schools,” Ard said. “The same goes for Walker.”

Ard said he would like to have a firm answer from the School Board soon so he can begin training by May 1 for the deputies who will be placed at the schools.

The selected deputies will all be senior officers already working in the system, Ard said. Replacing those deputies, however, will require a 30-day hiring process.

“The sooner we can get started on that, the better,” he said.

School Board President Malcolm Sibley said he believes the board can make a decision before May.

“It’s not something we can wait on when it comes to the security of the kids in this parish,” Sibley said.

Board member Keith Martin said he would like for the board to discuss additional campus security measures, such as placing cameras at each school, at the same time. “Can’t we address this as one plan, not just do it piecemeal?”

Superintendent John Watson agreed, noting that the district’s business manager already had provided board members with a cost breakdown for additional security cameras.