Sheriff Matt Gentry with his team of school resource officers: front row, left to right: Deputy Matthew Rutherford, Deputy Chad Whaley, Sgt. Randall Chambers, Gentry, Deputy Boyd Posey and Deputy Jim Butts; back row, left to right: Deputy Shane Chambers, Sgt. Arvel Allison, Deputy Jeff Lawson, Deputy Jared Hopper, Lt. Erik Ryan (SRO supervisor) and Deputy Kevin Folds (Photo courtesy CCSO)
CULLMAN – When school got out back in May and all the kids headed home, where did the school resource officers (SROs) go? How did they spend their summer vacation? Cullman County Sheriff Matt Gentry sat down with The Tribune to talk about what the SROs of the Cullman County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) have been doing for the last two months.
“One of the things that we face here at the sheriff’s office is, sometimes, lack of personnel resources in different areas. You know, we have grown in our community and at the sheriff’s office where, this year–by the end of the year, we’ll have caught 54,000 calls a year for service. In the last four years, I mean, we’ve grown 20,000 calls for service, and we’re constantly growing.
“One of the things that we face, especially during the summertime months, is our population in that middle southwest area of the county (near Smith Lake) triples. So, when your population triples in those areas, then a lot of times calls for service triple, issues that come up triple.
“And so, one of the things in the vision that we had this summer was the best way to utilize our resource officers from the schools, because they’re out during the summertime. It was kind of a three-tiered plan: the first is, we wanted them doing training throughout the communities. So we did our Sheriff’s Office Youth Leadership (Academy), we did some ladies’ self-defense classes, we did a few church classes. So we had those guys teaching and doing classes within the department itself–so, within the sheriff’s office.
“And the other areas we were doing is, we wanted to put more deputies out in the communities, more of a law enforcement presence in areas that we have high complaints, or problem areas that we receive; whether it’s speeding, drugs, drinking and driving, all of those kinds of issues. One of the things that we want with the SROs, we want them out in the community more, seeing more people out in the community.”
Geographically, the SROs focused first on the vicinity of Smith Lake in the southwest part of the county. Their efforts then extended to the New Canaan community just inside the county line near Arab, as well as Garden City, Jones Chapel, Gold Ridge and other places where information from the community indicated needs for special attention.
Read the full story at www.CullmanTribune.com.
“And it was very successful this year,” said Gentry. “We made numerous trafficking arrests this summer, a lot of drug cases, some DUIs; (we) had a lot of contacts throughout the year.”
In June and July, the 11 temporarily reassigned SROs:
- made 232 traffic stops
- served 124 civil papers
- answered 452 service calls
These numbers are in addition to those generated by regular CCSO patrol deputies.
Two of the SROs also spent part of their time helping the CCSO get a head start on plans for this year’s Sheriff’s Rodeo. And if you follow arrest reports in The Tribune, you probably noticed an uptick in drug arrests over the summer. In addition to operations by permanently assigned deputies, the SROs opened 13 new felony drug trafficking and possession cases, several of which involved multiple arrests.
Said Gentry, “That’s huge for us because, with those deputies, we were able to get to calls faster, better response time, and to handle those issues that normally would have been put on the backs of the deputies that are out working patrol day in and day out. That’s just a huge service to the community. It really give you an eye-opening view of, as we are growing as a community, with the right personnel numbers, what we can accomplish in our community: from answering calls for service to putting drug traffickers in jail–look at how many drug arrests we had over that period of time; we had numerous drug trafficking arrests–to just assisting for calls, helping in those other areas where we needed help–whether it was civil service or call volume.
“You know, the biggest thing that we face today–and we believe in the community at the sheriff’s office–but the biggest thing that we face is our call volume. You know, Cullman County is projected to grow in the next few years–by 2025–25 percent. So, as more citizens come in, then the needs that we have, have to grow, too. So this was a good tool or resource to what we could do through that.”
Gentry held a briefing for his SROs on Tuesday, ahead of the county school system’s opening day on Wednesday, and he concluded our conversation with a few thoughts coming from that meeting.
“You know, these guys–we met with them yesterday, before they started school today–and I’m very proud of the guys. They hit it this summer and worked very hard . . . I was very proud of their accomplishments over the summer, you know, whether it was being out in the community, the drug arrests, the calls for service, the rodeo, the Youth Leadership (Academy)–teaching these youth good leadership qualities. And I’m very proud of them.
“But the thing that we talked about, and the thing that I’m most proud of, is that they are in schools protecting our most valuable resource. And that’s our children, you know; that is our children. And those guys have a big responsibility. Those 11 guys have the backs of our community on their shoulders with our children, and I’m proud of the job they do and the work they do in the schools to take care of our kids.”
Cullman County Sheriff’s Office School Resource Officers
- Lt. Erik Ryan, SRO supervisor
- Sgt. Arvel Allison
- Sgt. Randall Chambers
- Deputy Jim Butts
- Deputy Shane Chambers
- Deputy Kevin Folds
- Deputy Jared Hopper
- Deputy Jeff Lawson
- Deputy Boyd Posey
- Deputy Matthew Rutherford
- Deputy Chad Whaley
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