The Palestine Police Department, Anderson County Sheriff's Office, and Texas Department of Public Safety might soon have a new member of their local law-enforcement family: the Palestine Independent School District.
PISD officers won't roam the district's six campuses when classes begin Thursday, however.
“We are taking our time in implementing this,” PISD spokesperson Larissa Loveless told the Herald-Press Monday. “We feel we want to be as knowledgable as possible about this before taking any action.”
Palestine started to plan for its own police force, after state lawmakers ear marked funding for school safety under House Bill 11.
Loveless said finding officers who specialize in school safety would help ensure safety and security for both students and the community.
“Our new school safety officer Bruce Bradley has over 30 years' experience as a DPS officer,” she said. “And he just came back from state school officer training in Austin.”
If the district decides to go forward with the department, Loveless said, Bradley would act as chief, with a yet-to-be-determined number of full- and part-time officers under him.
The most important benefit of in-house police, Loveless said, is protecting students from outside threats. “It's becoming increasingly important to protect our students from threats and danger from the outside,” she said. “If we go forward with this plan, our officers will protect our students from all threats, be they cyber, physical, or what have you.”
Using PPD officers, some of whom have already worked a 40-hour week, to work at every function and sports event can become expensive.
“Overall, this plan saves taxpayers money over our current practice of paying PPD officers for events,” Loveless said. “We could conceivably have experienced, retired officers working part-time for events, while others work part- or full-time during the day.”
The school resource officer, a PPD officer assigned to the school district, would remain. Detective Joe Tinsley, the current SRO, would not report to Bradley. He would instead work in-tandem with the new department and chief.
PPD Asst. Chief Mark Harcrow told the Herald-Press his department supports the idea.
“We have a good relationship with PISD, and that would not change,” he said. “Having their own police force would be a force multiplier for them, us, and the whole community.
“We are here to support and help them with any decision they make.”