Wake County sheriff wants school system to form its own police department

Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison (File)

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison wants the Wake County public schools to form their own police force.

“I believe we really do need to begin to move in that direction, sooner rather than later,” he wrote in letter Thursday.

RELATED: Video shows officer slamming student at Rolesville High School

In the letter, he says the idea was raised by a committee he helped chair several years ago, but that he’s bringing it up again in reaction to a recent incident at Rolesville high school. In that case, a school resource officer employed by the Rolesville police slammed a girl to the ground while breaking up a fight. His actions were caught on tape and sparked controversy.

Harrison criticized the current system, which uses officers from 12 law enforcement agencies across the county in schools.

“Each agency has different protocols and training standards that often may be in conflict with the goals and objectives set by the school board and superintendent,” he wrote.

“If they want a better school environment, safer schools, they’ll look at this police department,” Harrison said in an interview.

He said the 185,000 students in the school system outnumber the population of Cary, which has about 160,000 residents.

He also said the schools could have the money he uses for the 23 officers he sends to the schools, to use as seed money for such a program.

“(Superintendent James Merrill) has received the letter and always appreciates hearing from the sheriff,” the school system said. “There are many points of view on the topic and Sheriff Harrison has made his preferences known before.”

School Board member Keith Sutton said expense is a major hurdle to such a program.

“You’re talking about millions of dollars given to the school system dedicated for education, now that would be additional money going to law enforcement,” he said.

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