Keller ISD beefs up presence of police in schools

Posted Monday, Apr. 29, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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Increasing the police presence in and around Keller schools is one of many initiatives begun in recent months by city and district officials to improve the safety of students and staff members.

The improvements are largely in response to the school shooting in Sandy Hook, Conn., in December which killed 20 children and six adults.

“What we tried to do was figure out a way to use the resources we have to get a heightened police presence in our schools,” Keller Police Lt. Tommy Simmons said.

Officers have begun random patrols inside and around the perimeter of 10 schools within the Keller city limits. These campuses include Hidden Lakes Elementary, Keller-Harvel Elementary, Ridgeview Elementary, Shady Grove Elementary and Willis Lane Elementary. Also, Bear Creek Intermediate, South Keller Intermediate, Indian Springs Middle, Keller Middle School, Keller Learning Center. Keller High School already has a full-time police officer on campus.

Westlake Academy will also be patrolled because of the contract the department has to serve that town. Simmons said the additional attention also has been offered to a few of the largest private schools in the city.

Multiple times each week, patrol officers check in at campus offices, walk the halls and check the outside perimeter of buildings, Simmons said.

The patrols are not costing the city any extra money but are helpful on many different levels, officials said. Officers become more familiar with the internal workings of the schools and with the layout of the campuses. Staff and students also get used to seeing police.

Simmons said patrol officers work the school visits around their calls. About 60 percent of an officer’s patrol time is not spent answering calls for service. The school patrols are now part of the officers’ performance measures, he said. The plan is for police to go to each school multiple times each week on a varying schedule.

Kevin Kinley, director of safety and security, said the Keller officers’ increased presence and familiarity with campuses could make a tremendous difference in a crisis.

Kinley said that while Keller police have been participating in school lockdown drills for some time, Fort Worth police have begun to assist during drills in recent months. In a few actual lockdowns, Fort Worth police have come to schools first to make sure they are secure before patrolling the area to look for threats.

Keller school district officials are taking a systematic approach to improving security measures. They are replacing dated analog cameras and recorders with digital internet protocol systems that can be accessed by computers and mobile devices. Keller, Fossil Ridge and Central high schools, along with Fossil Hill Middle School, have received upgrades. Officials also have replaced fire panels at a number of campuses.

Administrators plan to pilot a program at seven campuses to improve security in reception areas. If someone who is in the office appears to pose a threat, receptionists can press a button to activate a camera behind them and send an automatic alert to the security office for assistance as well as a feed of what is happening.

“Being able to push a button and know that help is on the way is essential,” Kinley said.

The safety and security department also plans to add two mobile security specialists—one on each side of the district—to respond primarily to concerns at elementary and intermediate campuses, Kinley said.

Building security also will be part of the comprehensive facilities assessment conducted this spring by SHW Group, a Plano architecture and planning firm. The study will evaluate current security and recommend and prioritize improvements.

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