ATLANTA — The Atlanta school board has approved having at least one full-time Atlanta Police Department officer patrolling the halls of every middle school and high school.

Deputy Superintendent Larry Hoskins told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution the police will build relationships with students and work to identify discipline problems before they become criminal matters.

“They’ll get to, literally every day, engage the students and teachers, learning about them,” Sgt. Gregory Lyon said.

The 55 officers will replace a less organized group of about 235 part-time, off-duty officers who moved from school to school and didn’t always work full school days.

Lyon said the permanent officers will be like police working a beat, except their beat will be a school instead of a neighborhood.

“Off-duty jobs are off-duty. They’re secondary. The officers working here, this will be their primary duty and function,” Lyon said.

The 55 officers will be distributed among 30 middle and high schools, and the officers will be required to go through training on how to work with students.

The transition to more structured policing comes after several shootings and fights during the last year, including a Grady High School student who accidentally shot herself in the leg and a Price Middle School student who was shot in the neck.

Atlanta Public Schools had considered creating its own independent police force — similar to what is in place in Gwinnett, DeKalb and Fulton counties — but instead decided to continue working with the Atlanta Police Department.

Dedicated police officers do a better job than off-duty police who work with students on the side, said Kevin Quinn, president of the National
Association of School Resource Officers.

“Part-time officers don’t have a knowledge of what they’re supposed to do on campus other than being a hired gun,” he told the newspaper.

Atlanta’s safety and security costs are budgeted to increase about $700,000 next school year to $10.1 million, in part because the school system will be responsible for the officers’ benefits compensation and the school system is adding the equivalent of two full-time officers, Hoskins said.

Full-time officers will be in high schools when school starts Aug. 7. Middle schools will continue using part-time officers until Jan. 1 and then will switch to full-time officers, he said.

View Source