APS hires full-time police officers

Emily Dean

This semester, a new Atlanta Public Schools initiative will be introduced. APS schools will now have full-time resource officers present.

The idea was introduced last January, when the APS Board of Education began to discuss the possibility of a partnership with the Atlanta Police Department, which would add full-time officers to APS schools. Superintendent Erroll Davis spearheaded the proposal, with the goal of attaining greater consistency among the officers in the school, and to have another adult advocate for the students.

In past years, the security system at APS schools has involved different police officers working at schools as part-time, off-duty assignments. According to APS Board member and Grady parent Cecily Harsch-Kinnane, the Board discussed a plan involving an APS police force of its own, unrelated to APD.

The resulting system is a mix of the two. Harsch-Kinnane said resource officers are trained by the APD, then selected by APS and APD to be placed in schools. There is a specific branch of the APD called the School Detectives Section that manages APS security. This allows APS to maintain its relationship with APD, while still having full-time officers of its own.

“The estimated cost of this hybrid model is $10.1 million,” Harsch-Kinnane said. Last year’s budget was about $9.4 million. Security, however, has not been increased; the difference in expenses mainly covers benefits and other costs are required for full-time resource officers, but not for part-time ones.

“We’re retaining a number of the part-time officers until Jan. 1, when some of the part-time will be replaced by full-time resource officers,” Harsch-Kinnane said. So far, 55 full-time resource officers have been hired by APS, and the number is expected to rise to 73 by Jan. 1 2014. These numbers do not include the off-duty APD officers that still are working or the lieutenants in command of the other officers.

There will be between two and four officers at each high school. Officer Antwan Denson, the new full-time police officer at Grady, said one of the goals of the new system is to inspire more relationships between the students and the officers.

Denson said the full-time officers will provide more continuity in the school law enforcement. Since there will be one officer present at all times, communication between the officers will be much easier, so an issue can be more readily dealt with if it expands over the course of multiple days.

Grady Assistant Principal Dr. David Propst explained that having an officer at the school who knows the student body will have a positive impact. This will allow Denson to better keep track of students.

“He has a file on every student,” Propst said. “It’s very, very organized.” Propst held up a dozen or so files on Denson’s desk, explaining that they were the files of students who were being kept track of due to behavioral issues.

Denson will be working closely with a behavior specialist to monitor students’ conduct.

The new security system extends down to APS middle schools, as well.

“Each middle school will have a full-time resource officer and an additional unarmed officer,” Harsch-Kinnane said.

Since Denson is at the school full-time, he will be aware of any infractions and know which students may need a little bit of extra guidance. Part-time police officers will still be present at any schools that may require additional security, as well as at school events such as sports games and tournaments.

“I’m here to mentor the kids, help them get to class on time,” Denson said. “I’m here to encourage kids and let them know that there is a different aspect to a police officer.”

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