DCS, DPD teaming on campus security

When the state legislative session opens next week one of the hot-button issues the will be discussed is the matter of increased security in Alabama schools.

The Demopolis City Schools Board of Education took up that fight over the last several weeks when it enlisted the services of Demopolis Police Department Chief Tommie Reese in the assessment of the security status of the four DCS campuses.

Reese reported his findings to the board and made a series of recommendations that will likely have to manifest over time as education funding continues to be limited.

While local education officials are hopeful this legislative session will produce increased funding for school security, meeting Reese’s recommendations will still be somewhat of an arduous process.

“I don’t want to say that we are so far behind that we can’t catch up. Our schools were built back in the early 50s, around there somewhere. I think that our newest school is going to be the high school,” Reese explained before noting that the increasing culture of gun violence that has produced such incidents as the December 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. was not a present factor when the schools were initially designed and constructed. “Our school system was not set up for what we’ve got. No school system in the nation was set up for what we’ve got going on right now. Nothing is fail proof. But we want to update some things at the schools, update some camera systems. Do some extra monitoring of people in and out of the schools. And there are a lot more security measures we will put in place in the future.”

The speed and totality at which Reese’s measures are implemented will be determined by the DCS board, but the police chief noted his optimism and his fervent belief that the school system’s governing body is genuine in its efforts to improve campus safety.

“I think the board is open right now to every avenue that is available to them. We’re hoping that the state is going to come out with some funding to offset some costs to implement some of the things that I have proposed to the board,” Reese said. “I didn’t feel like at any time that the board was just trying to pacify what is going on at this time. I think the board was really concerned about the welfare of the staff and the students and they wanted to do something to make sure our schools are as safe as they could be.”

The school system currently utilizes to school resource officers, one of which services Demopolis High and Demopolis Middle School while the other – hired just last month – patrols Westside Elementary School and U.S. Jones Elementary.