Top TN sheriff believes all schools should have officers - WSMV Channel 4

Top TN sheriff believes all schools should have officers

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Sheriff Terry Ashe Sheriff Terry Ashe
NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

School districts in Tennessee are taking action after the shooting last month at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut with plans to put an armed police officer in every school.

In recent weeks, leaders in Sumner and Williamson counties proposed plans for more school resource officers and security upgrades to school buildings, and the Paris Special School District announced Wednesday a temporary plan to station officers at each of its schools.

The top sheriff in the state said there should not even be a debate. Times have changed, he said, and the increased security is a must.

Terry Ashe, executive director of the Tennessee Sheriff's Association, said the people of Tennessee are overwhelmingly in support of having a permanent law enforcement officer in every school in the state, and each of the 95 county sheriffs have fielded requests for officers in schools.

Law enforcement is ready and willing, of course, but the question remains over who will have to pay for this increased security.

"We don't have to reinvent this wheel, all we have to do is grease it. So, in this case, we have the SRO program. It's state-mandated. The training is there. The guidelines are in place," Ashe said.

School boards are likely going to have to pay for these officers, and it's going to be expensive.

In Williamson County, it will cost an estimated $2.3 million to train and put an officer in every school for a year.

However, those proposals are flying through government approvals so far. Thursday in Franklin County, leaders fast-tracked Sheriff Tim Fuller's request for eight more officers in schools.

"It obviously makes you feel good. It gives you confidence that you made the right decision to jump out and say, 'This is what you need to do,'" Fuller said. "To say that it won't happen in rural Tennessee is sort of sticking your head in the sand."

Some say it's too expensive, but Ashe contends it would be too expensive not to do something.

Proponents of increased security point to the more than 70 shootings at schools nationwide in the past 17 years.

"We've jumped a generation in the mindset of what's really going on with our communities. As abnormal as it sounds, it's almost the new normal," Ashe said.

As Wilson County sheriff, Ashe was the second sheriff in the state to put school resource officers in elementary schools.

He said he knows that his SRO program diverted incidents at school, but the problem is there are no statistics on the number of those prevented cases.

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