The Bucks County Sheriff’s Office is getting into the business of providing contracted school resource officer (SRO) services.
The Bucks County Salary Board and Sheriff Fred Harran, a Republican, approved an agreement this week that would use a sheriff’s deputy as a school resource officer for the Central Bucks School District’s West High School in Doylestown Borough.
The move is a first for the sheriff’s office, which has countywide jurisdiction. It also makes Bucks County the fourth in the state to make use of a piece of 2019 legislation that allows deputies to serve at schools for security purposes.
Under Pennsylvania law, sheriff’s deputies are tasked with serving court papers, making arrests on bench warrants, courthouse security, prisoner transport, firearm licensing, and sheriff’s sales. The role is not the same as municipal law enforcement.
The school district will pay for the cost of the deputy under a soon-to-be-finalized contract being worked on by officials this week, Harran said.
The commissioners – two Democrats and one Republican – worked with Harran to iron out the details for county government.
The Central Bucks School District, the fourth largest in the state, has officers from two municipal police departments in two of its three high schools. However, the police department that covers Doylestown Borough, which is known as the Central Bucks Regional Police Department, has been unable to staff an officer for the one high school, which led to the district reaching out to the sheriff’s office.
Harran said the deputy assigned to the high school will work with staff and students. In addition, they will assist in coordinating with county human services resources when needed.
Bucks County is the largest county in the state to use a sheriff’s deputy to provide school security. The other four counties are smaller and more rural.
Harran told NewtownPANow.com he would consider expanding the program if districts ask, but he presently isn’t having conversations with other districts.
The county has 13 school districts, 96,000 students, and close to 10,000 teachers. There are seven SROs in the county, including in the Bristol Borough, Bensalem Township, and Neshaminy school districts.
“We need to get more SROs in Bucks County,” Harran said.
The sheriff, who oversaw the Bensalem Township Police Department when they introduced an SRO program, said any districts that do want to use sheriff’s deputies as SROs will have to pay the cost of the staff member.
In an interview with this news organization, Harran said most districts elect to use municipal police officers, but he could see his office expanding the program to one of Bucks County’s three rural districts where there are no local police and only state police, who don’t offer an SRO program.
The salary board is made up of commissioners Bob Harvie, Ellis-Marseglia, and DiGirolamo, and Bucks County Controller Pamela Van Blunk, a Republican. All four of the members are running this November for commissioner and have made keeping crime down a focus of their campaigns.
All four politicians said they were for protecting kids.
“There’s no debate about that,” Van Blunk said.
Ellis-Marseglia said the county has almost no role in schooling, but the lack of an officer provided by the municipal police led to county officials wanting to act.
There was pressure on the salary board to approve the deal this week because the sheriff’s office wants to send the deputy to the upcoming Basic School Resource Officer Course of Instruction taking place in Doylestown Township in mid-August.
Act 67 requires SROs to complete the training before they can work in schools.