By Chris McGuinness
Killeen Daily Herald
Ask any parent who sends a child to school about the importance of keeping campuses safe and the answer is likely to be the same.
“It’s one of the most important things a (district) should do,” said Vashty Ramos, a parent with four children in the Killeen Independent School District.
One of the ways many districts try to keep children safe during school hours is through the use of on-campus law enforcement.
While both KISD and the Copperas Cove Independent School District make use of police officers at some of their schools, each entity has delegated those positions in a different way.
CCISD, which serves about 8,250 students, partners with the Copperas Cove Police Department and pays for the services of two full-time officers, Georgette Hurt and William Hughes, who are stationed at Copperas Cove High School.
Troy Galow, CCISD’s deputy superintendent, said the officers can be dispatched to the district’s other schools as needed.
“We are very pleased with the work they have been doing,” he said.
According to a memorandum of agreement between the city and CCISD, the district will pay no more than $123,700 to the city for the officers. The district also is required to pay the cost of any officer used for after-hours school events.
Galow said he felt it was important to have the same officers assigned to CCISD in order to build a relationship with students and staff.
“(The officers) are able to develop a rapport with students,” he said. “That’s important.”
Discipline reports from the Texas Education Agency show that some crimes committed by students at schools are rising, while others have fallen.
In CCISD, the number of incidents involving drugs and other controlled substances increased from 12 during the 2009-10 school year, to 23 for the 2010-11 school year. Fighting also increased from 40 incidents in 2009-10 to 47 last school year. Alcohol, tobacco and unexcused truancy violations all dropped for those same school years.
In KISD, incidents involving drugs and controlled substances increased, jumping from 68 in 2009-10 to 73 in 2010-11. Alcohol, tobacco and fighting also increased, but KISD schools saw a drop in school-related gang violence.
$1.1 million budget
KISD took a different route when it came to supplying officers to help ensure safety at its schools. The district created its own in-house police force.
“This is our own independent police department within the state of Texas,” said Walker Veal, KISD’s police chief. “Our officers are licensed and certified just like any other (police) department.”
KISD’s police force, which serves more than 40,000 students, has a total of 17 full-time officers — the vast majority of whom have at least 20 years experience in law enforcement, said Veal.
“We also specially train our officers to work with (kindergarten) through 12th-grade students,” said Veal. “(The officers) have put a lot of work into their training, both before and after we hire them.”
Because KISD must pay for such training, as well as equipment and other resources, the cost of managing its own security force is significant.
John Dye, the school safety director who oversees all aspects of the district’s safety and security, said KISD’s total safety budget is about $1.1 million.
“That’s not just the police, but all aspects of our safety and security,” he said. “It includes things like security cameras, crossing guards and our identification systems. Everything.”
Ramos said growing districts, particularly KISD, should hire more officers, specifically at the middle school and elementary school levels.
“I believe that when a school gets very, very big, you are just going to need to hire more officers to be available to (campuses),” said Ramos.