Arizona ​Supt. Tom Horne ​unveils plan to address school resource officer shortage

Oct 20, 2023, 4:35 AM | Updated: 6:32 am

File photo of police officers at a metro Phoenix campus. Staffing shortages have made filling schoo...

Staffing shortages have made filling school resource officer positions difficult in Arizona. (Facebook Photo/Goodyear Police Department)

(Facebook Photo/Goodyear Police Department)

PHOENIX — Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne laid out a plan this week to address staffing shortages that have made filling school resource officer positions difficult.

Horne has made increasing law enforcement presence a priority. Earlier this year, the School Safety Program provided millions of dollars in grants for schools to hire school resource officers, as well as counselors and social workers.

However, Horne said police staffing has presented a problem.

“There was no district or school that requested an SRO that didn’t get the funding for it,” he explained. “But then when they went to hire someone, they found out that the police departments couldn’t spare enough people to fill those positions.”

How is Arizona addressing school resource officer shortage?

To address the shortage, the Department of Education entered into an agreement with private company.

“We’ve contracted with Off Duty Management to have police officers available when they’re not on duty,” Horne said. “If a police officer isn’t working one of the weekdays because he works on the weekend, he could be available to the school that day of the week.”

The agreement will create a rotation of officers to help cover a school instead of a single school resource officer. These officers can be sourced from throughout the Valley, giving more flexibility and a larger pool to draw from.

Since it won’t be a full-time role, these officers will be considered school “safety” officers. They’ll still work with school personnel on safety plans and assessments and will receive eight hours of additional school-specific training.

Which Valley police department isn’t participating?

However, Horne said one police department hasn’t opted in to the program.

“Phoenix [Police] has not agreed to have their police officers participate,” he said. “You may have a situation where a school in Phoenix has officers, for example, from Peoria or some other city.”

Phoenix Police clarified in a statement that of the 122 schools in the city that requested an officer, they are already covering 116 – either with full-time school resource officers or part-time school safety officers. The department is also in ongoing talks with Off Duty Management.

Horne stressed while this arrangement won’t compromise coverage, it does weaken one of his big selling points for resource officers: the relationships they can build with students.

“The school might have five different officers, one for each different day,” he said. “It’s better if one officer establishes the relationships all the time, and we’re hoping that this shortage of police officers will be solved. In the meantime, we can provide those that will be there one day a week covering all five days and keep the kids safe.”

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Arizona ​Supt. Tom Horne ​unveils plan to address school resource officer shortage