NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Metro Nashville Police Chief John Drake is doubling down on his commitment to keep schools safe.
While Gov. Bill Lee has pushed for school resource officers (SROs) in every school, Drake said staffing shortages limited his department’s ability to hire fulltime SROs in Metro Nashville’s 70 elementary schools. Nonetheless, on Saturday, July 15, Drake explained other plans in place to secure schools in the upcoming academic year.
“Over the last day or so, people have questioned our police department and my commitment to the safety of our schools,” Drake said. “My commitment has never wavered. In fact, it’s even stronger for the 2023 school year.”
With parents and students on alert following the Covenant School shooting, lawmakers have made new money available to fund SROs in schools across the state.
Lee shared the following statement with News 2 on Friday, July 14:
We worked with the General Assembly to pass an historic, overwhelmingly bipartisan school safety package, because nothing is more important than the safety of Tennessee students and teachers. Any decision by local government to not use every tool at their disposal is a disservice to parents and teachers who are counting on us. Like the vast majority of Tennesseans, I believe every public school should have access to an SRO without financial burden.
MNPD has applied for $3.375 million in safety grants in all middle and high schools. However, Drake said he doesn’t have the staff to apply for another $5 million to fund full-time SROs for all 70 elementary schools. Instead, he will continue with School Safety Initiative, which provides elementary schools with volunteer overtime off duty officers.
“We have 530 square miles in Davidson County, and with the level of our staffing, we can’t pull 70 officers away from the streets of Nashville, keeping our communities safe, and put them in schools at this time,” Drake said. “If we accepted [the grant] right now, we would have to have those positions filled by June…30, 2024. Otherwise, we have to give it back, and we can’t accept funding if we don’t have those positions.”
Drake said the department’s goal is to one day fill the 70 fulltime elementary SRO positions. In the meantime, he will add a new School Rapid Response Team of highly-trained officers to respond to emergencies. Also, each precinct will send extra patrols around elementary schools.
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Drake said he spoke with Lee via phone Saturday morning and emphasized the two have a strong working relationship.
“He understands what we’re doing with our resources. He did say that he thought every school should have a school resource officer, and I don’t disagree, but he understands with staffing and other measures what we have to do,” Drake said.
In August, approximately 8,500 Metro Nashville Public Schools staff will undergo Civilian Response to Active Shooter Events (CRASE) training. For more information on MNPD’s 2023-2024 school year security plans, click here.