TUPELO • Tupelo Public School District announced the hiring of three new school resource officers at a joint press conference with district officials and Tupelo Police Department representatives Wednesday morning at Lawndale Elementary.
“When there is an incident, and, unfortunately, in the town the size of Tupelo, there are incidents that occur, it is comforting to our parents to know there is a police officer available to oversee the safety of their children,” said TPSD Superintendent Rob Picou at the conference.
There will be nine school resource officers working in Tupelo schools beginning July 1.
On Tuesday, the Tupelo City Council unanimously approved an agreement with the Tupelo Public School District to increase the number of police officers at local schools.
Under the terms of the agreement, TPSD will give the city $189,000. The city will use this money to pay the salaries and equipment costs associated with three new officers.
These new officers will be employees of the Tupelo Police Department, but during the school year will be assigned to work at schools in the district.
Tupelo Police Capt. Terry Sanford said school assignments of the officers are currently being hammered out. He said the goal is to eventually have a school resource officer at every Tupelo school.
“What we are trying to do is make sure every school is covered,” Sanford said.
Sanford said the city and the district have been working toward bringing in new school resource officers to the school district for the past year.
Sanford said June and July are busy months for school resource officers because of summer camps and annual training sessions. School resource officers will participate in training sessions over the summer to be ready for the fall.
District Assistant Superintendent Andy Cantrell said one part of the role of school resource officers is to build relationships of trust with students.
“We learned from Sandy Hook that 80 percent of the time, if someone is going to do something, then they will tell somebody and we have multiple ways they can tell us about different events,” Cantrell said.
TPSD has a tip line and a number to text, 5984445, regarding suspicious activity, and the district also monitors online activity for keywords indicating potentially suspicious activity such as threats of violence or suicide. A school administrator, law enforcement officer or counselor could be looped in depending on the situation, Cantrell said.
“We have these layers of protection and do everything we can to just try to make sure we have these open lines of communication with our students. That is the key to ensure their safety,” Cantrell said.
Tupelo Police Deputy Chief Allan Gilbert said law enforcement should connect with young people.
“It’s important to build relationships at an early age. From kindergarten all of the way up through high school, kids get an opportunity to meet the officers and build relationships throughout the time they are in school,” Gilbert said.
Caleb Bedillion, the Daily Journal’s government and politics reporter, contributed to this story.