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Sheriff’s office applies for school safety grant
Dawson County Sheriff Jeff Johnson speaks about a federal COPS grant for school safety during the BOC’s June 16 work session. - photo by Julia Hansen

Following a discussion about school safety at a Board of Commissioners meeting earlier this month, the Dawson County Sheriff’s Office has now been given the go-ahead to apply for federal funding to address the issue. 

The BOC voted unanimously to approve DCSO’s application for a school safety-specific Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grant during their June 16 voting session, just before the first deadline of June 17.

The board’s decision follows the BOC’s May 5 approval to apply for a separate COPS grant which would allow DCSO to hire up to four more certified law enforcement officers. 

The school safety grant would allow law enforcement to apply for $500,000, with a 25 percent local cash match. It’s a competitive, repeat 36-month grant, said Dawson County Sheriff Jeff Johnson during his presentation at the BOC work session on June 16.

The grant’s funds would support local officer training to prevent student violence; hardening or deterrent measures including metal detectors, locks, lighting and other items; technology for expedited notification of law enforcement during an emergency; coordination with law enforcement and other security measures COPs deems necessary. 

Johnson later said that radio communications can be challenged inside the schools, as is not uncommon within many structures. 

“It is our hope that the pending radio project will resolve a lot of these transmission and reception issues,” he said. “Our request to apply for the COPS grant will serve to amplify and enhance our radios’ capabilities.”

BOC Chairman Billy Thurmond clarified that the county “usually has a 50-50 relationship” when it comes to school resources like officers, so he suggested looking into whether the school system could commit to giving 12.5 percent of local funds should Dawson County be awarded the grant.

“In light of everything you’ve seen on the news, and I know Commissioner Satterfield brought up some information [on June 2]...I think it’s a great opportunity for us to get some money,” Thurmond said. 

Johnson said he talked with Thurmond and Dawson County School District Superintendent Nicole Lecave. 

“The [school] district is in the initial stages of reviewing the grant opportunity,” Lecave said in an email to DCN on Friday. “We are awaiting additional details to be provided before determining next steps.”

“I think the school [system] will be on board. I can’t speak for them, and like the sheriff said, he couldn’t either,” Thurmond added during Thursday's BOC meeting. “But they’re in the business of protecting our school kids just like we are and just like the sheriff is.” 

District 2 Commissioner Chris Gaines asked and Thurmond and Johnson confirmed that DCSO was just looking for the ability to apply for the grant. If they’re awarded it, county commissioners and DCSO would have time to make further decisions and time to allow the school board enough time to walk through their process.

“What’s the odds of getting this one?,” Gaines said. 

“There’s only 160 awards [nationwide], so it’s worth a try,” Johnson said. 

District 1 Commissioner Sharon Fausett quipped, “Now, why can't it be Dawson County?”