Editor’s Note: This story ran first in August 2019. Officer Adam Willson, who was the officer injured in Monday’s shooting at Austin-East Magnet High School, was one of the subjects of the story about training for school threats.
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – The week before school officially starts in Knox County school resource officers were training in the halls of a local elementary school.
Officer Adam Willson with the Knoxville Police Department was leading the group and says in an emergency, communication can break down but it’s vital.
“When that stress level goes up, ‘Shots fired!’ or there’s violence in the school, some of those communication dynamics change. So what we want to do today is we want to induce a little stress and create an opportunity for us to exercise that stress communication,” said officer Willson.
Year to year there’s a shift in the way we look at SROs.
“I think we use cameras a whole lot more than we used to, and I think that’s a good thing in the schools for security. We’re using door locks in ways that we didn’t before. So, classroom doors being locked, so vital to security. Keeping entry points, singular and multiple entry points into a school, monitored and secured,” added Officer Willson.
He says at the heart of his job as a school resource officer, is building relationships and trust, “Violence is scary. We don’t want to be around violence but we need to have the same, ‘I know what to do about it and I know how to go about getting safe from that or getting away from that.'”
At Powell High School, school resource officer Priscilla Crabtree with the Knox County Sheriff’s Office says there’s even a shift in the way we look at SROs, “I try and get to their level. I’m kind of a motherly figure and I want them to know they can come to me and talk to me.”
The more the world changes, SROs say the more their training changes and they learn from other tragedies.
“I walk through my school every day, all the time, different hours. It’s never the same and I want to keep them guessing,” said officer Crabtree.
While SROs are continuously training, officer Crabtree wants parents to remember, “When they come and drop off these kids, to know that I am the barrier between a threat and their kid and that they’re going to be OK.”
To use the Text-A-Tip line, text to: 274637 (spells CRIMES), type in keyword: knoxschools, then type a space followed by your tip. This tip line is available to report potential violence, drugs, bullying or other sensitive issues to security and law enforcement.
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