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'There will be no deficiencies': Warner Robins police officers to no longer patrol Houston County Schools

Mayor LaRhonda Patrick says the district recently decided to work with only one agency for the school resource officer program-- the Houston County Sheriff's Office.

WARNER ROBINS, Ga. — In the future, Warner Robins police officers won't patrol the halls of county schools.

That's because of a recent change from the Houston County School District.

Warner Robins Mayor LaRhonda Patrick says the district recently decided to work with only one agency for the school resource officer program-- the Houston County Sheriff's Office.

Right now, there are two Warner Robins officers involved in the program. There is one at Warner Robins High School and the other at Northside High School.

At city council Monday night, Patrick said this will change.

"The Houston County Board of Education has elected to contract solely with the Houston County Sheriff's Office for all of their policing needs. That means the SRO programs, inside of any school inside of Houston County, would be coming from the Houston County Sheriff's Department," Patrick said.

She says the Warner Robins police SRO at Northside will join the one at Warner Robins High, until the sheriff's office has the staff to support the program on their own.

"They originally wanted to put both of our officers at Northside High School, but I said it was extremely imperative that we continue the relationship that officer won has made with those students. I didn't see value taking our value seasoned officer, who has been there that long, developing those relationships, out of that school into another school," Patrick said.

Patrick says the district wants two resource officers per school.

Warner Robins Interim Police Chief Wayne Fisher says the school district's ultimate goal is to have "a continuity of operations for structure, staffing, and funding."

"The Houston County Sheriff's Department, the Centerville Police Department, Perry and Warner Robins. We all work in concert with each other. While there will be some changes, there will be no deficiencies in the overall security, which they will see provided for their children," Fisher said.

Patrick says the Houston County Board of Education funds the SRO program.

"I will tell you that this is not something our police department is happy to see. I am not happy to see it, but it is the Board of Education's decision and they have full authority to make that decision of who they are going to contract with, so we have to respect it, but we do take our schools very seriously. We take the responsibility and roles of our SRO officer very seriously; and the intel that comes with them being in the schools in the same city that they police, so we will be losing that, but we will find other ways to go into the schools to try and develop that rapport with the students, as long as the sheriff's department allows us to go in there, not for policing, but more for education," Patrick said.

Jennifer Jones with the school district says they are working to give 13WMAZ a timeline for when these changes will take effect, but they "will not leave Northside School uncovered."

The school district provided a statement:

"The safety and well-being of our students and staff has always been our top priority. For many years, all schools in Houston County have had an assigned School Resource Officer (SRO) from either Houston County Sheriff’s Office, Warner Robins Police Department, or the Perry Police Department.

Recently, our District met with our law enforcement partners to discuss shifting all SRO responsibilities to the Sheriff’s Office. This change will not reduce the number of SROs we currently have. In fact, we hope to be able to add additional SROs in the future.

We are grateful for all of our local law enforcement officers for their dedication to the safety of our students and staff and our community as a whole."

Patrick says Warner Robins police will "still be in charge of crossing guards."

She also says the "Warner Robins Police Department is in control of the MAC" [McConnell Talbert Stadium], but she says "that changes maybe coming at the end of the school year."

13WMAZ knows there are still a lot of questions.

We are working to learn more from the police department, sheriff's office, and the school board.

"The reason it is happening is not because we did something wrong. It's not because of any staffing issues. It's solely because the Houston County Board of Education has chosen to contract with one municipality, instead of having all the municipalities do different things," Patrick said.

Monday night, Warner Robins council also appointed an Interim City Administrator James Dodson.

They also held an executive session on pending litigation, real estate, and personnel.

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