Armed school security on ballot for Allen Parish

By By Doris Maricle / American Press

OBERLIN — Allen Parish voters will decide Saturday whether they want to increase property taxes to help beef up school security

by adding armed resource officers to all parish schools.

The 10-year, 7.5-mill property tax will generate $630,000 a year to hire, train and equip 11 full-time officers, said Sheriff

Doug Hebert III.

“I know it is unfair to property owners

and nobody likes taxes, but I know it is the right thing to do,” Hebert

said. “I hope

that the majority of the people feel the same. I know a lot of

parents, grandparents and teachers want the kids to feel safe

in the classroom.”

The officers will be required to attend

the police academy, be DARE certified and be trained in use of

firearms. They will

also be required to undergo extensive background and criminal

history checks, complete yearly training and be evaluated annually

by principals.

Portions of the funds would be used to improve school safety, including installing surveillance cameras, electronic doors

and alarms.

“This is an extremely important issue because the program wouldn’t happen without it,” Hebert said. He said the Sheriff’s

Office and School Board have no funding to pay for the program because most funds are dedicated.

“Our goal is to get these kids

protected without having to depend on someone else to provide the

program,” Hebert said. “I

view it as my responsibility, but my problem was how to get the

program done and go about educating the kids. I wasn’t prepared

to wait or hold out for other options.”

Under the measure, owners of property assessed at $150,000 would pay $40-$50 a year. Those with property valued under $75,000

are covered by the state’s homestead exemption and would pay nothing.

“I really believe that this program may be the single most important impact law enforcement can have on our kids and their

future,” Hebert said. “But it’s far beyond the security aspect.”

The officers will help expand the DARE program to all grade levels and implement junior deputy programs in the schools. They

will also help deter crime, counsel students and act as a mentors.

“It is extremely important to be ahead of the curve and be able to teach the students before they become a problem and to

direct them down the right path,” he said.

If the proposal is approved by voters,

the officers could begin work on campuses in by the fall of 2014 after

completing training

and certification.