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KCSO, KPD support plan to put armed officers in every Knox Co. school

8:02 PM, Feb 19, 2013   |    comments
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Knox County Superintendent Jim McIntyre's proposal to get armed officers stationed at all of the county's schools is gaining support.

Knox County Sheriff Jimmy "JJ" Jones and Knoxville Police Deputy Chief Gary Holliday both spoke to Knox County Commissioners Tuesday in favor of McIntyre's three pronged proposal to beef up school security.

This comes several weeks after 10News learned of a lawsuit between the Public Building Authority and a former contractor over security deficiencies in two schools.

In early February, the BOE asked McIntyre to develop a district-wide security review which he presented to the board on Monday.

McIntyre says during next month's budget hearings he plans to ask the county to fund armed officers, better entry way security like keyless entry or buzzer systems, and up-to-date video surveillance systems for every school in his district.

Jones and Holliday say they support all those measures.

But the county holds the purse strings, and Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett has previously said he's not interested in further funding school security initiatives until questions and a lawsuit surrounding the previous school security contract are resolved.

The superintendent wouldn't say if he feels the support of KPD and the KCSO will bolster his case before Burchett, but he says KPD Chief David Rausch and Jones are both experts on the issue whose input should be taken seriously.

McIntyre says he's having an "ongoing conversation" with Rausch and Jones about who should hire and train the armed officers, but McIntyre says he has not yet made that recommendation to the school board.

Jones says they would need about twenty more officers to be able to station one in every school.

In the past, Holliday says school resource officers have done tactical training with KPD, and they intend to continue to do so in the future to ensure everyone is "singing off the same sheet of music."

Knox County School Board President Karen Carson told commissioners she hopes the future discussions will begin to focus more on the security of children, rather than the security of the buildings.

She says much of the discussion to date has focused on burglar and surveillance equipment that's not in use when children are in the building.

Carson says she believes Sandy Hook's impact on school security will be similar to that of 9/11's impact on airport security, and they need to be prepared for the future.

Commissioners and school board members also met for the first time Tuesday for a joint committee on school safety.

They hope more communication  between the two groups will pave the way for smoother talks about how to spend tax payer dollars during next month's budget hearings.

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