Council urged to continue SRO program
Cape Coral City Council will gauge the value of spending $438,350 on school resource officers next week, entering into an inter-local agreement with the Lee County School Board to keep a Cape police officer in the city’s high and middle schools.
The estimated cost for the program for fiscal year 2011 is over $1.2 million.
Interim Police Chief Jay Murphy said the city and the county are splitting the cost roughly “50/50,” and the price tag will pay for 11 officers and one supervisor.
Beyond the program’s price tag, however, are the amount of “intangibles” it offers, Murphy said, because of the level of interaction, and a bond that often forms between officers and students.
“It’s a different type of law enforcement,” Murphy said. “There are a lot of intangibles that come along with the SRO program.”
Murphy said the program really started in 1980, when Cape Coral High School was the first school in the city to have a full-time police officer on campus.
The program greatly expanded in 1985, and has come to employ police officers with special skill sets, who are attune to the needs of the schools and students, Murphy said.
Last year alone the 11 SROs responded to 4,500 different incidents at Cape schools. There were 65 arrests, while a lot of the incidents dealt with discipline issues.
Murphy also said some of those incidents dealt with domestic situations in students’ homes.
Councilmember Kevin Mc-Grail said the SRO program is crucial, not only as a safety mechanism, but as a first line of defense against crime in the city.
“It boils down to the safety of the students and the teachers,” McGrail said. “And our ability to be proactive as a police force and stay ahead of the potential crime that might take hold in our city … youth gangs recruit in the schools.”
Cape Coral High School Principal Eric McFee, one of several principals who spoke to council in favor of continuing the program, said the SRO program really extends beyond the school’s grounds, to the neighborhoods, the parks, the theater; all the places where school kids congregate.
“The importance of the relationships they have established with our students is dynamic,” McFee said. “It’s all about building those relationships.”