Riley wants $3.9 million for new officers in schools, downtown

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) - It's been nearly two months since the deadly shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Still, the tragedy is motivating city leaders to make changes in elementary school safety.

"Immediately after the tragedy in Newtown, Conn., I asked Chief (Greg) Mullen to analyze what happened there and advise me if we needed additional resources," said Charleston Mayor Joe Riley.

Since then, Riley says Mullen came up with a plan to hire a new "cluster" of officers specifically assigned to elementary schools.

The measure would cost tax payers $3.9 million.

"They are there working with the principals, being on the school grounds everyday many times a day, checking security, being familiar with the schools and creating a visibility that we believe would serve as a deterrent," Riley said.

Riley says the city's schools would be divided into eight zones and each zone would have three officers.

"In having three police officers available full-time any time the school is in operation, then the likelihood would be that at any given time one of those officers will be there or very near by," RIley said.

Riley says if the city council approves the emergency tax increase, the money would go to hire 19 new officers for elementary school patrol. Riley says the officers will not be diverted to other duties.

"First thing that a local government does is to make the community safe for our citizens and for our children. And, that's what this recommendation does," Riley said.

The funds will also be used to hire eight new officers to patrol the "upper King Street entertainment" district and build two new fire departments -- one in the Cainhoy district, the other in the western part of West Ashley.

Riley says he will make the official recommendation to city council next Tuesday.