The visits have become a daily occurrence under new police chief Nick Smith. Logs have been placed at each school for officers to record when they make the required walk-throughs, which are conducted randomly.
Principal Dianne Williams at Cordova Elementary School said her students feel safe around the officers now that they have become familiar with them.
“When it first started, they were a little nervous. If the police are here, something must be wrong,” Williams said. “Now they (officers) can walk by the lunchroom and you don’t hear the kids get as excited as they used to because there are police in the building.”
The hope is that the children, some of whom come from homes where the police are portrayed as bad guys rather than protectors, will be more likely to approach an officer if they need help.
Williams added that knowing officers will be on campus regularly has eased the minds of many parents since the Sandy Hook school shooting in December.
In addition, the walk-throughs are helping the officers learn the layout of the schools as well as the faces of faculty members — vital information in the event of a security threat.
Only one member of the current police department is a Cordova native.
Williams said she did not realize what kind of problem that might present until she attended a recent training session for local administrators.
“If I’m holding a gun that I just took away from a person and you walk in the building not knowing I am the principal, your reaction will be very different,” Williams said.
Bankhead Middle School Principal Amber Freeman said the school is easier to secure than others where she has been employed.
A fence surrounds most of the property.
All visitors must enter through a gate that is several hundred yards away from the entrance, and the building’s long hallways allow for maximum visibility inside the school.
Freeman said major incidents are rare, and she has implemented policies to keep misbehavior to a minimum.
However, she added that she also believes it is beneficial to have a close relationship with the local police department.
“I like being able to have their cell phone numbers so I can call when I do need them to come up here,’” Freeman said.
At Cordova High School, Principal Kathy Vintson said a regular police presence helps students feel safe and makes others less likely to step out of line.
“It’s good for high school students to know that we do work closely with law enforcement. It’s a deterrent for those few and far between who are considering causing a problem,” Vintson said.
She added that the officers are also a comfort to the faculty and staff who are responsible for the lives of hundreds of students.
“In this day and time, it is a heavy burden. Having them come up here regularly is amazing. There is a lot of comfort in knowing that they are that close,” Vintson said.