March 6, 2013 at 11:19 AM ET
In the wake of the shooting in Newtown, Conn., schools around the country have considered posting armed police officers inside their buildings, but have often run into the roadblock of paying for them.
A school district in South Carolina has come up with a creative solution to that problem at zero cost to taxpayers. In Simpsonville, police officer Justin Chandler has set up his his community service office at Plain Elementary School. There he can handle administrative duties and make phone calls while also having time to patrol the halls and keep the school safe as an armed guard.
“I’d rather be here and not be needed, than be needed and not be here,’’ Chandler told NBC’s Katy Tur in a segment that aired on TODAY Wednesday.
Chandler is in the school every day anyway, and it only took a few minor accommodations to get him there full time.
“All I needed from the school is a desk and Wi-Fi,’’ Chandler said. “We said it’s a no-brainer. When we got down to brass tacks with it, it didn’t cost a dime.’’
The thinking was that if a shooting can happen in a place like Newtown, which has a population of 28,000, it isn’t that different from Simpsonville, a town of 18,000. Chandler has since become a fixture at the school.
“I feel safer,’’ school principal Debbie Mihalic told TODAY. “I never thought that actually having an officer at (Plain) Elementary would be that valuable, but now that he’s here, I don’t want him to leave.’’
School officials spoke with parents about any issues arising from having an armed police officer roaming the hallways. So far the reaction has been positive.
“He’s made us feel safe, especially what happened over in Connecticut,’’ one parent told TODAY.
Simpsonville isn’t the only school district embracing such a solution: Schools in Jordan, Minn., have also decided to allow police to set up satellite offices in their public schools. Officers do paperwork and make calls while also patrolling the school or responding to any emergencies.