RUTHERFORD COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) —For the last four years, Deputy Andrew Towle has walked the halls of Barfield Elementary School in Murfreesboro.
“I’ve been in law enforcement 18 years, and I’ve always just wanted to be in the SRO division,” he said.
Towle is one over 65 school resource officers (SROs) patrolling schools in Rutherford County.
“I get here everyday and I try to greet them as I come in and interact with them throughout the day, and try to make an impact with them,” he said.
In 1993, Rutherford County became the first school district in the state to offer a school resource program. The program serves 50 schools in the county.
“It’s just the safety and security,” said Capt. Brad Harrison. “You can see it in the parents’ eyes the relief they have knowing somebody’s here to protect those kids at any cost.”
Harrison is the captain of the SRO program who, like many, saw what happened at The Covenant School in Nashville last week.
“It’s heartbreaking, but in today’s time we need the officers in the schools to make sure these kids are kept safe,” he said.
On Monday, schools in Rutherford County closed as SROs went over safety plans with teachers, principals and support staff.
“I’m constantly looking at ways to get better,” said Harrison. “Even though we have plans in place, we’re constantly reviewing and we evaluate situations like what happened last week and see do we have any deficiencies…where can we get better at?”
Harrison said they have staff and students participate in active shooter drills throughout the year, and their SROs go through multiple training plans over the summer as well.
However, building relationships is something Harrison believes is a major component of their program.
“We do a lot of after school activities,” he said. “We build that rapport with the kids, and by building that rapport that’s where we get a lot of our information from.”
The SRO’s presence depicts safety and security, but Towle knows his job means that and so much more.
“We get to build a relationship with the kids and build lifelong relationships, and they get to know law enforcement as not just being authoritative and pulling people over, but that we are actually people to talk to them,” he said.
Harrison said they won’t be making any changes to their current safety plans because they are satisfied with what they currently have in place. He also said they are exploring options of adding more than one SRO to schools since the county is continuing to grow.
“We’ve got high schools with 2,400 kids in it now, so it’s quite the task to control that type of facility as large as some of these schools are,” he said.
Rutherford County Schools sent out an update to parents and staff Monday evening, detailing how they will continue to move forward after the Covenant School shooting.