Sheriff Leon Lott said his Richland County deputies were highly visible at Chapin Elementary, Leaphart Elementary, Nursery Road Elementary and Seven Oaks Elementary — all schools in the Lexington-Richland 5 district.
“I was contacted last week by Dr. Akil Ross and (Lexington County Sheriff Jay) Koon because they didn’t have enough personnel to cover all of the schools and the security company they hired wasn’t ready,” Lott told The State.
That security company is Security Solutions of America.
So Lott said his department could provide the personnel until the Lexington County Sheriff’s Department is able to fill its staffing vacancies or the security company is cleared to work at the schools.
“We have openings of various types across the agency, including school resource officer,” Lexington County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Capt. Adam Myrick told The State last week. “There are several newly hired deputies who will be permanently assigned to an SRO role.”
Messages left with LR5 were not immediately returned.
“As law enforcement, we help each other out,” Lott said. “We want to keep the schools and students safe.”
Lott’s deputies already provide security at 99 schools in Richland County, according to the sheriff. Lott said it made sense for his deputies to patrol the four elementary schools because of their proximity to the Richland County line.
There was a need for security at those elementary schools because LR5 decided to prioritize SRO deputies in schools with older students, Ross told school board members at a meeting last week.
“We looked at incidents in high schools and middle schools, and there were a lot of incidents where SROs have to deal with student-to-student issues,” Ross said at the school board meeting. “In elementary schools it’s more about protecting the campus.”
The sheriff said his deputies will be highly visible, and patrol vehicles were parked by the front doors of each of the schools. While tasked with providing security, the deputies are expected to interact with students and teachers, both inside and outside of the schools, according to Lott.
“I’ve already had emails and texts from parents thanking us, and they said they feel safer,” Lott said before noon.
There is no exact time frame for how long Richland County deputies will be needed to patrol the LR5 schools, but Lott said he expects to continue helping anywhere from the next two weeks to a month.
The Lexington 1 and Lexington 2 school districts both previously told The State their schools are fully staffed with SROs, some of whom are provided by municipal police departments.
“There was a need and we were able to help out,” Lott said.
Staff reporter Bristow Marchant contributed to this story.