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Safety Initiatives

History

In 2017, Fort Smith Public Schools entered into its Vision 2023 Strategic Planning. The Safety and Security of its students and staff was a top priority that emerged as an action item in that process. In 2018, FSPS citizens voted to approve a tax increase that would provide for secure entries and access at every building, as well as permanent walls at the district’s four open-space elementary schools. Since that time, the district has also utilized Department of Elementary and Secondary Enhanced Student Achievement (ESA) and Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief  (ESSER) funds to support Vision 2023 safety priorities that were not funded with millage funds.

At the state level, the Governor’s Safe School Task Force was commissioned in 2018 and conducted an extensive and comprehensive study on modern practices to keep our schools safe. Numerous recommendations were developed as a result of this commission. One recommendation in which the Arkansas Legislature took action was passing a law to allow public schools to establish their own institutional police agency just as other K-12 schools, colleges and universities do across our nation.

Fort Smith Public Schools Police Department was chartered in August of 2019 to provide our students, staff and the community the most effective and professional service of protection that falls in line with the important mission of providing a safe and secure learning environment. The transition from Commissioned School Security Officers (CSSO) to police officers allows the Fort Smith Public Schools to take the protection of our students to the next level that falls in line with the promise of Vision 2023.

Mission and Vision

The Fort Smith Public Schools Police embraces the diversity of its students, staff and community. In doing so the Fort Smith Public Schools Police Department is structured in such a way that its officers are assigned in the capacity of School Resource Officers. The intent of this structure is to allow officers to create a strong bond between students they protect and the community in which the students live. By being approachable this  enhances communication between students and our officers. This approach has paid off. Because of these bonds with students and officers we have been able to disrupt potentially violent situations.

Features

  • Each school building includes a secure vestibule and a secure access entry system. 
  • Four originally open-space classrooms have permanent wall systems that add an additional layer of security in Cook, Barling, Morrison and Woods Elementary Schools.
  • The Darby Middle School campus has been enclosed with security fencing around the once open courtyard. Prior to this addition, members of the community could easily walk through the campus. Fencing was also added to enclose the outdoor classroom within the Ramsey campus.
  • New camera systems and emergency lighting were installed in all new construction and renovation projects. The District Crisis Team monitors the need for additional and/or updated cameras during school visits each year. Buildings receive these visits every three or four years, or if they have a new principal.  
  • The current number of police officers (School Resource Officers) employed by FSPS is 10 full time officers and two part time officers. The police officer staff numbers include Chief Hollenbeck and Lt. Huber. 
  • FSPS has created a Dispatch Center that screens all calls regarding crisis situations. The dispatch center has the capability of dispatching our campus police or any other emergency services needed. Dispatch also will report this crisis to other departments or staff within the district. This has given our teachers and principals a streamlined communication model for proper notifications of all concerned parties.

    Our dispatch center now has NCIC and ACIC capabilities. We also have established an excellent working relationship with the 911 Call Center as well as radio interoperability with all emergency services in our area. This has greatly enhanced our abilities to provide a safe and secure learning environment.

    We have also established a school wide, after hour call service in conjunction with our dispatch center. We have the ability to monitor and forward all messages to appropriate departments 24/7.
  • We have purchased and implemented a Behavioral Threat Assessment System that tracks all reported threats. This behavioral threat assessment instrument follows the validated Comprehensive School Threat Assessment Guidelines (CSTAG) developed by Professor Dewey Cornell of the University of Virginia. This implementation was completed in collaboration with Student Services. The system and staff now can track behavioral threats and assessments, track persons of interest, has analytics, email alerting and intervention management. This system has helped us mitigate threats.
  • We have enhanced our School Threat Assessment Team. The department now has a Social Worker assigned to the School Campus Police Department. The social worker’s primary function is to manage, track and mitigate all reported behavioral threats. This approach is proven in diverting the pathway to violence. Our social worker has reached out to all Principals and Assistant Principals and responds to all threat assessments for our schools. We have received positive responses from our school Principals regarding this service.
  • We have completed the installation and implementation of a Mass Notification System for the FSPS. This system alerts staff and students for “Code Red, Code Yellow and Code Green” type of situations.
  • We have started the Police and Student Advisory Council. Officers who are assigned to all middle schools and high schools meet every quarter with their Student Advisory council to discuss current affairs and or any concerns that they may have.
  • The School Police Department now works the majority of all criminal cases inside our public schools. The department also has one officer that specializes in the department of human service type cases and investigations.
  • We now have a weekly in-person departmental morning briefing. During this briefing we have an information sharing flow of pertinent police information regarding school climate, incidents in schools, law or procedural changes, work assignments, upcoming special events, officer safety issues or alerts. This is an important strategy to promote teamwork as well as providing important information to our offices.

Training

We have created and established a back to school in service training week. During this spin up, all officers train in active shooter solo engagement tactics and response, medical first aid refresher, de-escalation tactics, firearm qualifications, and review of new operating procedures. We also train in current ethics and community and cultural awareness, youth mental health first aid and suicide prevention as well as other school resource officer areas of interest. We consistently meet and exceed state training mandates for law enforcement officers.

  • All officers have successfully completed the Trauma Medics course by the U.S. Marshals Service as well as Stop the Bleed training. The department also has the ability to deploy Automated External Defibrillators (AED) that are assigned to Chief Hollenbeck and Lt. Huber. This now gives our department the advanced lifesaving first aid capabilities to treat students and staff in the event of a mass casualty event or any medical issue that may arise at school or special events.
  • We have purchased and implemented an online training system called Police One. This training software has hundreds of police training videos and testing. Many of the online training classes are pre-approved through the Commission on Law Enforcement Standards and Training (CLEST). This has assisted our department in ensuring all officers are up to date with mandated as well as assigned training.
  • Our Social Worker and Chief Hollenbeck attended a Behavior Threat Assessment Course. This course is designed to give officers and staff the knowledge and skill set to conduct behavior threat assessments and follow up with strategies to prevent the pathway to violence.
  • Lt. Huber and Chief Hollenbeck have attended a School Vulnerability Assessment Course. This course is designed to give officers skills and knowledge as to how to do assessments on school buildings and identify areas of weakness and security vulnerabilities in our schools.