by: Tom Regan Updated:ATLANTA —
Atlanta Public Schools is considering creating its own police force to give the district more control over security and preventative measures for student and staff safety.
"While we were planning to revisit our safety and security plans as a district over a year ago, certainly what happened in Newtown, Conn., impacted our decision process," said APS spokesman Steve Alford.
Alford told Channel 2's Tom Regan that both the superintendent and director of school security believe hiring a school police force would benefit students and staff. Currently, the school system is served by 55 full-time and more than 200 part-time Atlanta police officers.
Alford said a homegrown police force would be more involved in building relationships with staff and students.
"They would know the environment, they would understand the culture and their goals and objectives would be directly aligned with the goals and objectives of the district," said Alford.
Several metro area school districts, including Gwinnett County, have an independent security force.
Gwinnett established its school police force in 1979. Currently, 25 officers work in the district and provide security in 18 school clusters.
"Because they are housed at the schools, they really know the staff and students. They build relationships with the officers and students," said Gwinnett Schools spokesman Jorge Quintana.
Quintana said school officers are required to have 10 years of related experience and a masters degree.
APS Superintendent Erroll Davis said he will provide details on the development and cost of a school police force in the next two months. The district has also scheduled public meetings in which parents and students can offer input on school security.