Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, reviews files during a debate in the Alabama Senate on April 13, 2023. (Brian Lyman/Alabama Reflector)
The chair of the Senate Finance and Taxation Education committee has filed a bill that would allow retired law enforcement officers working school security more pay and opportunities.
Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, said SB 174 would allow those school resource officers to work at extracurricular events and sporting events without going over the $30,000 pay limit they are allowed under law related to the Retirement System allowance.
“It’s extremely important to be able to allow these SROs who are working in the school system to allow them to do extracurricular activities, and serving as SROs, they know the children,” he said. “They know the children, or the students, that may not be so good and be up to trouble perhaps, versus the ones that are good actors.”
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Under existing law, retired law enforcement officers can work as school resource officers. But the pay cap means they cannot often work afterschool events. The bill would allow those working after school hours to be paid on a contractual basis that would not count toward other pay.
Orr said the bill would promote safety in those areas. School Resource Officers already know the school and community, he said, and are better equipped than someone hired for a single night.
“They also know the facilities,” Orr said. “They know the exits (and) the doors. They’ll also be able to work with other SROs that they know from the day shift when they go into the night setting of the football games.”
Messages seeking comment were left with the Alabama Association of School Boards.
Mac Hardy, operations director of the National Association of School Resource Officers, said they were not part of the development of the bill but had met with Alabama legislators on it and support the bill.
Hardy said the bill could help with staffing. Law enforcement everywhere, he said, is having a difficult time covering all of the places they need to be, so this bill would help staff schools.
“We’re asking for extra coverage, taking men and women off the streets and placing them in a school full time to work in that capacity,” he said. “So, when we felt like this could help, you know, we were, we were in support of it.”
Hardy added that retired officers should be carefully selected and trained to work in school settings. He said there’s a 40-hour basic class that he thinks anyone working inside a school should be required to take.
“There’s some specialized training that’s involved in understanding school law, understanding the role of law enforcement inside of the school, understanding the special needs, students with special needs, and also understanding adolescent brain development.” he said.
The bill is similar– but narrower in scope– to one filed by Rep. Rex Reynolds, R-Huntsville. Reynolds’ bill would raise the payment cap to $52,000 for all retired public employees, including retired law enforcement working as school resource officers.
Senate Finance and Taxation Budget Chair Greg Albritton, R-Atmore, had concerns on Reynolds’s “return to work” bill. But Albritton said in a phone interview Friday that Orr’s bill differed from Reynolds’ bill, and that he would probably support Orr’s version because it does not raise the cap.
“It simply allows these people to work basically, on their own,” he said.
Albritton said he did not have a chance to further review Orr’s bill and was more familiar with Reynolds’.
Albritton also said that the money for this bill would come from the Education Trust Fund budget, and it has “plenty of money.” Albritton is a member of the Finance and Taxation Education committee.
“So, that should not affect some of my concerns,” he said.
The Finance and Taxation Education committee approved the bill on Tuesday. It moves to the full Senate.
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