Local News

Durham schools could lose officers to cuts

Posted March 6, 2009 6:45 p.m. EST
Updated March 6, 2009 7:27 p.m. EST

— Durham County Sheriff Worth Hill said Friday that school resource officers might become a casualty of budget cuts next year.

County Manager Mike Ruffin has asked departments to look for ways to reduce spending by up to 10 percent in the fiscal year that starts July 1. Hill said that would lead to layoffs for 40 to 45 deputies, including those who keep tabs on local middle and high schools.

"I really see it as a catastrophe for the community," Hill said.

The Durham County Sheriff's Office pays for 14 of the 19 school resource officers, with Durham Public Schools picking up the tab for the other five.

Fred Blanks and Tammie Holloway-Raines, parents of Hillside High School students, said local schools can't afford to lose their resource officers.

"That would be a big mistake. We need them, and we need them bad," Blanks said.

"They are needed, and until they put prayer and discipline back into the schools, you are going to have to have all the police officers there you can get," Holloway-Raines said.

Hill said his department has already has cut back on training, travel and washing patrol cars to save money. But he said operational savings cover only one-third of the $3 million he would need to cut to reach Ruffin's 10 percent target.

Losing dozens of deputies would return the department to 1997 staffing levels and could also affect units that deal with gangs, domestic violence, drug investigations and reducing the backlog of unserved warrants, Hill said.

Michael Page, chairman of the county Board of Commissioners, said it's unlikely the board would cut so many deputies.

"That would be probably one of the last items that we would probably look at, in my opinion," Page said.

Commissioners are getting feedback about potential cuts across the county, he said.

"We are at the very beginning of the process. No real decisions have been made at this point," Page said.