Lemons suggests resource officer in light of Newtown school shooting

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By Matt Kelton
Pioneer Sentinel

In light of the recent school massacre in Newtown, Conn., Sheriff Kenny Lemons presented a plan to Commissioners on Friday to discourage a similar event from happening in Clay County.

The proposal was one of three discussion-only items brought fourth by the sheriff during the commissioners Dec. 28 meeting.

While Lemons said he was not ready to present details of the proposal to commissioners, he did seek their permission to move forward by contacting school superintendents. The plan would include all four independent school districts in the county.

Lemons suggested the sheriff’s office hire an additional deputy to serve as a school resource officer to serve the public schools. He figured the cost of a deputy at approximately $57,000, including retirement and benefits. The cost of hiring an SRO would be split between the school districts and the county, with Henrietta, Petrolia, Midway and Bellevue ISD covering about 70 percent.

Lemons estimated the cost per school at $9,975 per year, but said the cost could be divided up based on the number of students in each district.

Clay County has a truancy officer that works with the schools to cut down on absenteeism, a position held by Jim Weaver, a certified peace officer and former chief deputy with the CCSO. Truancy officer is a position in the office of Justice of the Peace Jim Humphrey.

Lemons said a school resource officer could work a schedule allowing the deputy to spend one day per week in each school in the county, or as needed. The officer could also provide educational programs to students.

Lemons also asked commissioners to continue to consider remedies to what he regards as an escalating issue with stray animals in the county. Lemons has asked commissioners in the past to consider building a facility to house stray animals, or to consider joining Wichita County in housing estrays.

The sheriff suggested a county-owned property inside the city limits of Henrietta as the location for a facility that could keep livestock, dogs and cats. He also suggested the county consider hiring an animal control officer. Clay County currently relies on two landowners in the county to hold stray livestock.

Lemons updated commissioners on changes that the Clay County Jail and similar facilities statewide will face as the Prison Rape Elimination Act goes into effect.

PREA was signed into law in 2003 by President George W. Bush, but did not go into effect until June 2012. Lemons said the biggest issue that small facilities such as the Clay County Jail face is that inmates under the age of 18 cannot be housed with adults, nor can jailers have contact with adults and anyone under the age of 18 on the same shift.

In Texas, an offender is considered an adult at the age of 17, but with PREA in effect, 17-year-olds must be housed separately.

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The Pioneer Sentinel is an online newspaper designed to deliver the news of Clay County, Texas, in a concise and community-friendly format.

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