Indiana policymakers propose $10 million in grants to hire school safety officers

Districts would have to match funds

INDIANAPOLIS - Two Indiana policymakers are seeking to set aside $10 million -- up to $50,000 for each district -- for grants to hire more school safety officers.

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller and state Sen. Pete Miller, R-Avon, announced their proposal Thursday.

They said the grants would have to be matched evenly by local schools or law enforcement officials.

The two stressed that their proposal isn’t a comprehensive effort to stop slayings such as the one that took place in Newtown, Conn., in December, but that it could help.

"I think it’s particularly important that these positions be expanded in light of the shootings in Connecticut," Zoeller said.

Zoeller added that the funding measure was on the table even before the Newtown shooting.

"Just from the needs assessment, even before the shooting, we had overwhelming support for additional student resource officers in the schools," Zoeller said.

The measure -- Senate Bill 270 -- gives schools broad discretion to decide who should serve as safety officers and whether they should work for the schools or for local law enforcement officials.

Gov.-elect Mike Pence has said he plans to launch a quick study of Indiana’s school safety procedures to determine whether other fixes are necessary.

According to a study commissioned by Zoeller’s office in November and December, which wrapped up four days before the Newtown massacre, at least one in four Indiana schools already has safety officers in place, and teachers, parents and other officials there said they feel their schools are well-equipped to handle safety concerns.

"School safety officers get drugs out of the schools, get weapons," and more, Zoeller said.

Since the measure caps the amount each district could receive at $50,000, its impact in large urban districts could be muted.

Miller, though, said that wasn’t an intentional policy decision. Rather, he said, the proposal is an initial draft and would likely see changes.

Indianapolis Public Schools Police Chief Steve Garner said although many people have suggested arming teachers and administrators, that wouldn't be as easy as it sounds.

"There's an awful lot more that goes along with arming an individual and properly training them for the end result, which is taking another person's life," Garner said.

Law enforcement data shows that ordinary citizens successfully intervene in two-thirds of rapid mass murder events, and Garner said first responders -- even if they're teachers or students -- play a big role.

"On many occasions across this nation, those first responders, the staff, students have the capacity to impact not having further injury take place," he said.

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