Mayor makes $2 million promise of more officers in schools

By Valencia

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV){}-- Mayor Keith Summey says he was driven to tears when he heard about the mass killing at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut.

"My heart just sank when I saw what can happen in a very short period of time," said Summey.

The mayor now plans to take action into his own hands by providing one police officer per elementary school.

"The most vulnerable of all of our children in our school system is our elementary children. Yet, in the city of North Charleston and other areas, I have a police officer in every high school full time. I have a police officer in every middle school. I do not have full time police officers in the elementary school," Summey said.

The move will cost $2 million to pay for{}new employees and new equipment. Summey says he has every intention of asking city council for authorization to hire the 21 officers.

"Quite honestly, because of all the media exposure that we have today in society, you worry about copycat, you worry about mental health issues within the community."

Summey believes this is{}something that{}should have been done years ago.

"I could not live with myself if something happened in of our elementary schools and we had not done something to try to prevent it."

In the meantime, Summey will assign 12 officers to elementary schools. The officers will begin their rotation on Wednesday.

"In a high school, you know, grown young adult children can help respond themselves. But, we have that police officer there already. But, little children, kindergarten through 5 they can't respond. They depend on us."

Summey says he already has the support of 6 or 10 council members and hopes have the same from the Charleston County and Dorchester County districts.

"We want the parents to know that we love their kids just like they do, and we feel a responsibility for their safety when they are away from home," Summey said. "We gone do everything in our power to make sure that in the public school system in the City of North Charleston, we're providing as much safety as we possibly can."

Summey hopes{}putting more{}officers in schools will help keep young kids safe and build better relationships between police and youths.

"At a very early age we will establish a relationship between police officers and children. So, that by the time they get into middle school, they develop an understanding that the law enforcement is there for you and not against you."

Summey plans to hire 21 South Carolina certified officers at a $70,000 per year salary.

The general reserve budget will compensate for the rest of the year, until new officers can be allocated in next year's budget.

"It's a lot of money. One child's life is worth more than that."