Even with the recent decision by Chester County schools to drop four deputies working as school resource officers in favor of private guards – as well as asking to keep county money to pay part of the cost – the county’s sheriff vowed at a budget workshop Monday night that he will keep the four deputies.
In addition, Sheriff Alex Underwood wants county leaders to pay for those four deputies to stay on the payroll – and he wants eight more officers.
The County Council, however, has yet to act on the request, and county leaders have said repeatedly that there is no money to pay for more police.
Underwood remains undaunted.
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“One way or another, we have to keep these deputies for the safety of the public,” Underwood said after the workshop, where his staff explained it needs new cars, radios and other equipment to replace that which has aged and deteriorated.
But Councilman Brad Jordan said in the meeting that money is tough to come by, saying: “You know funds are tight.”
Underwood has battled the council for six months since a heated meeting in December after the shooting death of Chester City Councilman Odell Williams in what Underwood said was a gang shooting.
Two weeks ago, Underwood said he was blindsided when the Chester County School District dropped the four deputies when district officials decided to hire 10 private security guards.
The district wants the $101,000 from county officials that paid half the cost of the school resource officers put toward the private guards.
If the council does not give Underwood the $101,000, he could lose the four deputies that he said would be put on patrol now that the schools have chosen private guards.
Underwood initially had asked for four of the eight deputies he wants to hire to be school resource officers, but that point now seems moot, although Underwood said he remains upset at the school district’s choice.
Yet Underwood said keeping the four deputies at risk of losing their jobs is his first priority, and no matter how the county allocates the money, Underwood said, the deputies will not be laid off.
Underwood gained a political ally on the council after Shane Stuart was elected county supervisor in March. Stuart is a former deputy and school resource officer who is against the school district’s decision to hire private guards.
But Stuart, who has said that the deputies need to be kept on payroll, only votes to break a tie of the other six council members.
No decision was made Monday.
The budget will be adopted sometime next month for the fiscal year starting in July.
Andrew Dys • 803-329-4065