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Picayune School District moves school resource officers in house

Starting this year, School Resource Officers with the Picayune School District are no longer part of the Picayune Police Department.
Instead, they are now employees of the Picayune School District.
Superintendent Dean Shaw said the change was made for several reasons, some of which include cost savings and the ability to ensure that officers working for the school district remain working for the school district in an effort to build stronger relationships with students and staff.
Assistant Superintendent Walt Esslinger said that by putting the school resource officers under the school district’s umbrella, an officer assigned to a campus will remain at that campus, enabling the children to build long lasting relationships with that individual.
Shaw said that based on the last contact sent to the School District from Picayune’s City Council, Shaw estimates the change will save the school district between $30,000 to $40,000 per year.
Additionally, it will mean that once an officer is assigned to a campus, he or she will stay there. Previously, due to shortages of officers with the Picayune Police Department, some of the officers assigned to the school district were pulled by the Police Department to help cover staffing shortages, meaning the school district was left short on officers.
While the school district previously asked the city for a total of seven officers in order to be able to have one officer at each campus at all times, that number was not reached due to the officer shortages in the Picayune Police Department.
Now that the officers are part of the school district’s employee base, the school district will have six officers and seven patrol vehicles. Shaw said those vehicles were purchased by the district.
To cover all seven campuses, two officers will rotate between Picayune Memorial High School, Picayune Jr. High and West Side Elementary, since they are all within walking distance with each other. Shaw said consideration to hire a seventh officer could be discussed at a later date.
During the summer, when school resource officers were under the Picayune Police Department, they patrolled the city. Now that they are part of the school district, Shaw said the plan is to send them to professional development courses, training and serve as security during the summer feeding program.
All of the school resource officers have been trained through the police academy and are sworn law enforcement personnel, Shaw said.