MESA COUNTY, Colo. (KKCO)_More than 10 schools in District 51 are now without a member of law enforcement walking the hallways.
As local revenues continue to fall, so do the services they pay for. The latest casualty is school resource officers.
"It's painful for us to do. It's really painful for me to do. I was involved in building that program up," says Mesa County Sheriff Stan Hilkey.
Sheriff Hilkey says he had no choice in eliminating three out of four school resource officer or SRO positions.
"We cut out patrol deputies, we cut investigators, we cut school resource officers, we cut civilian positions," says Hilkey.
Losing several million dollars of its budget, the Mesa County Sheriff's Office had to pull deputies from Mt. Garfield, Grand Mesa and Redlands Middle Schools. The three SRO’s in those middle schools also covered 10 other elementary schools. That leaves just one SRO at Central High School.
"Big high schools kinda have some of their own problems that are very unique to law enforcement anyway, enough to keep a patrol deputy busy there most of the day anyway," says Hilkey.
"What that means for us is our staff is going to have to be more aware of what's going on in the building," says District 51 Safety Coordinator Tim Leon.
Leon says depending on how long the SRO’s are gone will determine how they are replaced. "We talked about creating our own security in house and we've talked about outsourcing that as well, but again all of that is going to be budget driven," says Leon.
Hilkey thinks SRO’s could be absent for a long time, "I'm pretty confident that the only way that school resource officers are ever going to come back is if there is a public outcry and demand for them from parents and teachers and our community."
The district hasn't yet seen an increase in disciplinary issues or crime at those schools but say it's something it will watch for. But one thing the district does know is that it’s lost the leadership and positive role models those deputies provided.
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