Wake Sheriff suggests WCPSS establish its own police force
Posted January 19
Cary, N.C. — After a recent video that showed a Rolesville High School student being slammed to the ground by a police officer, Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison is suggesting that the Wake County Public School System start its own police force.
In a letter sent to Wake County school officials and county leaders, Harrison said the current safety approach for the school system is disjointed because it involves multiple agencies.
Harrison said there are 11 police chiefs and one sheriff who have oversight and direction of law enforcement efforts across the Wake County Public School System, which has more than 185,000 students, teachers, administrators and staff. Each of those agencies has different protocols and training standards that can often be in conflict with the goals and objectives set by the school board and superintendent, and yet they must cover a school system population larger than that of the Town of Cary.
"Stop and think, if you had 12 chiefs in Cary, what a mess you would have," Harrison said. "As large as we are, there should be one chief that makes sure everything gets done in the right way. Consistency, that is what we need."
Another problem, Harrison said, is there are complaints that students are too often charged with crimes in schools. Harrison said sworn officers can't look the other way, even on school grounds.
"When you call us, we can't pick and choose," he said. "So, we are in a no-win situation."
Harrison, who recommended the formation of a police agency within the school system four years ago, said that a public safety department under the authority of the Wake County Public School System would ensure consistency and provide a command center that can monitor every school in the county. It would also provide a clearer line of communication between school administrators, educators and officers.
“The agency would provide its officers a specialized training program geared for the specific needs of our schools- building positive relationships with our students, educators and law enforcement officers,” he said.
While acknowledging that some may be concerned about upfront costs associated with the establishment of the new police agency, Harrison said he believes it will be a good investment in the long run.
Harrison said other schools have successfully implemented their own police forces, including Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.
"If we were really sincere about keeping our schools safe, we would look at the police department," he said.
In response to the letter, Wake County Public School System spokeswoman Lisa Luten released the following statement on behalf of Superintendent Jim Merrill:
“Dr. Merrill has no immediate comment. He has received the letter and always appreciates hearing from the sheriff. There are many points of view on the topic and Sheriff Harrison has made his preferences known before.”