MNPD chief addresses staffing shortages after announcing lack of SROs at elementary schools

In total, Chief Drake said Metro police is short 170 officers and that they hope to be fully staffed by 2024.
Published: Jul. 15, 2023 at 6:09 PM CDT|Updated: Jul. 18, 2023 at 7:04 AM CDT
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - Chief John Drake with the Metro Nashville Police Department gave a response to the School Resource Officer (SRO) funding and the lack of SROs in elementary schools after many expressed concerns.

On Friday, Metro Police announced they will have SROs at each high school and middle school in the district. There will be two officers in each high school and one in each middle school. However, due to staffing shortages, Metro Police said they have 70 SRO vacancies in Metro’s elementary schools.

Even though they have 70 open SRO positions, Drake said he didn’t think it was smart to pull the officers off city patrols to fill the vacancies.

“If we pull 70 officers from the precincts and put them in schools and we leave the rest of the community vulnerable…with the way gun violence is, the prevalence of guns and the things we’re dealing with now, we don’t want to leave the rest of Nashville vulnerable.”

In total, Drake said Metro Police is short 170 officers and that they hope to be fully staffed by 2024.

Drake added the staffing shortages are not because of a funding issue. In May, the governor’s school safety bill was signed into law. That law helped make funding available to help place an armed SRO in every public school in the state.

“It’s not a funding issue. I would never let money get in the way of safety,” Drake said. “This is about a staffing issue.”

Metro Nashville Public Schools has a total of 132 district-run schools and 60 SROs.

Drake said Metro Police has applied for the maximum amount of funding, but that they can’t accept the initial $5 million in state funding yet since all the positions for SROs haven’t been filled. Drake added that they hope to accept the state funding next year.

In response to the lack of SROs in elementary schools, Drake said Metro Police will be doing all they can to keep the kids safe. Drake said there will be volunteer officers at the elementary schools. Metro Police will also be starting a school rapid response team and has asked the state to fund it. However, he said, the state hasn’t responded yet.

The school rapid response team would consist of 14 officers and four supervisors to be prepared for any type of school incident. The team will be at schools and on campuses where there is a threat of school violence. Drake said the team will also be there for training and other safety measures throughout the school year.

In addition to elementary schools not having SROs, Drake said there are no SROs in charter schools yet either, but added charter schools are supported through the “school safety initiative.”