Horry County Schools is looking at private armed guards to provide school security instead of contracting with Horry County police for school resource officers.
But who are these guards?
U.S. Security Associates is an insured, American-owned company that provides over 50,000 security professionals in 120 companies with 160 branches in the United States, according to its website. It also provides unarmed security outside Horry County schools.
The security guards in the schools would have arresting authority on school property and patrol the 15 schools that Horry County police covered last year as well as the three new schools opening for the next school year, according to district spokeswoman Teal Britton.
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Unlike police officers, they would operate at the disposal of the school district.
They did indicate that they are able to recruit a lot of veteran officers and folks with law enforcement experience.
Teal Britton, Horry County Schools spokeswoman
The company in its proposal told the district that all armed guards would receive all necessary training required by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division as well as an additional 16 hours in training from U.S. Security Associates.
“The company will be required to provide proof of all background checks and training,” Britton said. “They did indicate that they are able to recruit a lot of veteran officers and folks with law enforcement experience.”
School board Chairman Joe DeFeo said he thought it was a good idea to have retired police or military protecting the schools.
“I’m more concerned with safety and security in our schools for our students than with the law enforcement function of arresting kids,” he said.
U.S. Security Associates Area Vice President Doug Howard said in a statement that “a great deal of our officer force are prior security, U.S. military and law enforcement and have received extensive military and paramilitary training.”
Howard said the firm would begin recruiting security professionals to fill the positions in Horry County Schools as soon as an agreement was reached with the district.
How much will the guards cost?
It’s going to cost a lot less than meeting Horry County’s demands.
Horry County School’s contract with U.S. Security Associates — the firm that supplies unarmed security outside the schools — allows the district to ask for additional armed guards as part of the existing contract.
Documents released by Horry County Schools show that it would cost $550,000 to provide 18 armed guards in the schools.
The district already has budgeted $801,000 in the 2017-18 budget for all SROs, including $592,000 for officers at the schools that Horry County police formerly patrolled: the amount budgeted for the officers under the previous agreement with the county.
The district began looking at private security options after the county in March abandoned a long-standing agreement to split the cost of school resource officers’ salaries, and most recently asked for $1.6 million to patrol the schools.
The school board is scheduled to vote on who will provide school security during the Monday school board meeting.