Security team

East Baton Rouge schools abandon internal security team and will rely on deputies and BRPD | Education

In a flip-flop, the East Baton Rouge Parish school system won’t bring school safety after all. Instead, he’s expanding his longstanding deals with local law enforcement.

After pushing the idea for months, Superintendent Sito Narcisse told the parish school board on Wednesday that internal security would be too costly. On Thursday, the school board unanimously accepted his assessment and gave Narcisse the green light to negotiate a new arrangement with local law enforcement.

This new arrangement would divide security duties between the parish sheriff’s office, which has long handled school security, and the Baton Rouge Police Department, which has historically played a much more limited role in school safety.

The new arrangement will also increase the school system’s security budget from $2.8 to approximately $4 million. No changes, however, would have increased the budget even more, to around $4.7 million.

The new contract would pay law enforcement officers $42 an hour, up from $35 an hour last year. Before the pandemic, the school system paid deputies $30 an hour for security services with the sheriff’s office.

The move comes a month after the school board approved its security budget and approved a new job description for armed school resource officers. The district was to hire 26, one for each middle and high school. The push to hire internally has been led by Robert McGarner, the school’s new director of security, a former Baton Rouge deputy police chief hired in March.

McGarner was present for Thursday night’s school board meeting but did not address the board.

Narcisse said he returned to outsourcing security after receiving new cost estimates that caused him to reconsider moving security in-house. New unforeseen expenses included $1.4 million for new vehicles, which equates to $55,000 for 26 vehicles. Other new items included $273,000 for uniforms and $164,000 for guns and ammunition.

“It has been determined that this contractual arrangement is the most responsible and financially secure way to meet the school’s need for security for the safety of (school system) staff and students,” wrote Narcissus in a note to council.

Narcisse said he spoke with Sheriff Sid Gautreaux and Baton Rouge Police Chief Murphy Paul about “what would be the cost factor of having a partnership with you to have full-time (officers school resources) in schools for eight hours a day. ”

In the past, the Sheriff’s Office has provided part-time deputies trained as school resource officers who provide security when not performing their regular law enforcement duties.

After the vote, Ben Lemoine, a school district spokesman, said that while similar to last year’s agreement, the main difference with the new arrangement is that it will “mix” sheriff’s deputies and Baton Rouge police officers and that they will “work a rotating schedule at different schools.

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How the new arrangement will compare to the old law enforcement arrangement is unclear.

“We had not yet discussed any new changes to our duties,” Casey Rayborn Hicks, a spokeswoman for the sheriff’s office, said Friday. “We will continue to keep our students and staff safe while continuing to patrol and walk our schools with the goal of building relationships with our students and staff.”

Narcisse said the new contract will include ways for school leaders to track the performance of law enforcement working as school resource officers.

School board member Tramelle Howard said in her experience, school resource officers vary in how they work with children.

“We talk about community policing, but we have to make sure we set a standard for what it means to be inside a school and part of our school family,” Howard said.

Narcissus agreed.

“Our goal is not just for them to protect us, but for them to be part of the faculty,” Narcisse said.

Board member Evelyn Ware-Jackson questioned the unforeseen costs and why they weren’t included in the district security budget approved a month ago. She tried unsuccessfully to persuade her colleagues to postpone their case until next month.

“Did we really expect to make vehicles and uniforms in the original budget?” asked Ware-Jackson.

Board Chairman David Tatman said he shared some of Ware-Jackson’s concerns. He said he hoped some of those concerns could be resolved during contract negotiations. But Tatman said delaying a vote could prove problematic if a security issue arises in the next month.

“The issue here is the safety and security of our students, and I don’t think we can wait,” Tatman said.