Belew, Watkins at press conference

Sheriff Monte Belew (right) discusses the new student resource officer help unit Monday at the Henry County Sheriff’s Department while Ron Watkins, county emergency management director, listens.

Henry County Sheriff Monte Belew said School Resource Officers will be manning a help unit locally while schools remain closed.

During a press conference Monday afternoon at the Sheriff’s Department, he said the help unit will be on call for welfare checks across Henry County.

“SROs keep our students safe during the school year,” Belew said. “Now they are transitioning to this mode as an SRO help unit.”

Welfare checks may be conducted on the elderly, sick or people who haven’t been heard from recently.

The help unit’s second assignment will be to assist with essential needs for those who are staying home for their safety.

The help unit can pick up a grocery list from someone who is homebound and shop for them, pick up medication or perform other functions needed by those staying at home.

Those who need the assistance of the help unit may call the non-emergency line at 642-1672 to reach a dispatcher, who will then direct a two-person team to the household that’s in need.

SRO help teams will be assisted by deputies and members of the Metro Crime Unit.

The program begins today at 8 a.m. and will continue through March 31, and then the Sheriff’s Department will re-evaluate to see if it needs to be continued.

Belew said patrol units are operating as normal and responding to calls every day, although moving forward, low priority calls that only require a report to be filed will be conducted on the telephone.

The Sheriff’s Department will also suspend the practice of serving subpoenas and garnishments until March 31.

“I would like to commend all of our SROs and our patrol division,” Belew said. “We are on the front lines of this … We are going to do what we have to do to help Henry Countians and keep Henry County safe.”

Henry County Emergency Management Director Ron Watkins spoke at the conference on the importance of social distancing and staying safe.

He said although there is not a reported case in Henry County yet, we can probably expect one soon.

JAIL SAFETY

Belew said the Henry County jail is taking extra precautions to protect inmates and employees.

The jail is performing temperature screenings on each new prisoner, although Belew said there haven’t been many new ones at the jail. He said many offenders are being cited into court for a later date.

He said the jail is following recommendations from the Tennessee Department of Correction and the Center for Disease Control, and the jail is being disinfected twice a day.

Employees at the correctional facility are being checked for a fever twice a day, and any symptoms experienced by employees are being closely monitored.

All classes at the jail are suspended for now, including ministry, GED, parenting classes and the Ruby’s classes. No outside personnel are being brought into the jail.

Belew said the jail was at a relatively low population right now, at about 75% capacity.

“This too will come to a close, and we will be back and thriving,” Belew said.

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