School board upping securityPublished 9:52pm Tuesday, January 15, 2013
Police officers will be making random visits to county schools, as part of a county-wide effort to improve safety at school campuses, Assistant Superintendent John Knott said.
The partnership between the schools and police departments in East Brewton, Flomaton, Atmore and Poarch is an added level of security, joining the sheriff’s department resource officers who are already stationed at the schools.
Knott said a county-wide meeting with school system leaders, administrators and local law enforcement gave those involved a chance to review their safety plans.
“Our principals and administrators met last week in an effort to assess our safety practices and procedures at each of our schools,” Knott said. “We invited our sheriff’s department to join us as well as officers from each of the police departments that serve our schools.”
Knott said Sheriff Grover Smith and Chief Deputy Mike Lambert attended as well as representative officers with East Brewton, Atmore, Flomaton and Poarch police departments.
“We met with each of the agencies and those agencies met in breakout sessions with the individual schools,” Knott said. “The purpose was to discuss some general areas of concern at each school. We have already begun to put some of the suggestions that came from those meetings into place. All of this is an effort to make sure that we have increased security at each school. Our whole purpose is to make sure that the students, faculty and staff at each school has the best security available for them.”
Knott said each school’s safety committee is continuing their efforts with follow up meetings to determine needs and improve safety.
“Our committees are continuing to meet and assess situations and needs at each of the schools,” Knott said. “Once the needs are assessed, a plan of action is created and followed out with the cooperation of the committee, the school personnel and the law enforcement agencies that serve our schools.”
Knott said the law enforcement agencies are already making their services available to the schools in addition to the coverage already in place.
“We have resource officers in place for our schools,” Knott said. “We have an officer based at W.S. Neal Middle School who serves all three of the Neal schools. A resource officer is housed at Escambia County High School but will serve all of our Atmore area schools and we have an officer in place on the Flomaton campus to serve there as well.”
Knott said in addition to resource officers — who are all Escambia County Sheriff Department officers — city police officers are also making an appearance on campus.
“They have been so good to partner with us in our efforts to increase safety on our school campuses,” Knott said. “Each department is sending officers to make random appearances and walk-throughs at each of the schools. We appreciate the random approach since a schedule would make it easy to know when an officer would be on campus and when they aren’t.”
Knott said the meeting has made it possible to have a better relationship between law enforcement and the schools.
“This effort has certainly exceeded our expectations,” Knott said. “We have made a commitment to open the lines of communications between our schools and law enforcement and to have a more collaborative partnership than ever before.”
Knott said there will be a continuing plan of working the law enforcement to focus on the needs in areas of safety for schools.
“We will continue to work with law enforcement on a regular basis to prioritize and focus on the needs of our students in respect to safety and security,” Knott said. “There is some speculation that some funding may become available for additional resource officers from a state level. That is something we will continue to watch and be ready for if that possibility is made available to us. We know that if we have a resource officer in our schools, we want them to be a law enforcement officer since they are trained to deal with situations that could arise and they have the legal authority to deal with it. This is a very serious issue, and it’s an issue that deals with the most important thing we do — secure the safety of our students and teachers.”
Knott said services already provided by law enforcement officers have gone beyond what has been requested.
“I have nothing but high praise for our law enforcement officers that have come into our schools,” Knott said. “They have stepped up and been great partners. This is a relationship that will be good for everyone.”