After recent jurisdiction-expanding legislation, Calloway County School District is hiring five school resource officers for the 2022-23 school year.

Certified law enforcement officers can apply to the Calloway Sheriff’s Office. Beginning in July, the new hires will have authority further than school property lines. House Bill 63, passed during the latest Kentucky Legislature, permits school officers the powers of a campus police force.

“We’re excited we can put more deputies in schools. The funding is there, but finding the deputies is (the goal) now,” said Sheriff Nicky Knight.

Currently, the county has two SROs at its six district schools: Calloway County High and Middle Schools; East, North and Southwest Calloway Elementary Schools; and Calloway County Preschool.

Knight said one hiccup is hiring officers who seek year-round employment.

“It’s a year-long process to hire someone off the street, then send them to the academy — then they’re academy-certified, with no experience,” Knight said. “I want experienced deputies in the school, but the problem is when school is out, they’re off work.”

Under HB63, new SRO hires must undergo three training courses on school-based threat assessments, youth substance abuse, cybersecurity, mental health education, diversity and inclusion, and other topics.

McCracken County School District has eight SROs covering 12 schools, while Paducah School District has four for its six facilities.

McCracken Law Enforcement Supervisor Bruce Watson said the goal is maintaining numbers rather than swelling ranks, but jurisdictional changes were “the big thing.”

“Under the current statute, our law enforcement stops at that property line … We’ve been hampered, but SROs still have to respond to child welfare checks, and they witness criminal behavior,” Watson said. “It’s not about getting more authority; it protects my guys and it helps protect citizens.”

Under the Special Law Enforcement Officer Act, applications must be renewed every four years, with fingerprints and thorough documentation. Watson said he looked forward to HB63 greasing the slow wheels of bureaucracy somewhat.

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