Police offer presence at schools

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 12, 2001

With the start of school this week, police officers at three Natchez schools say they want students to know they are on their side.

&uot;We just want to be there for them,&uot; said Officer Lee Ford.

The Natchez-Adams School District and the Natchez Police Department hired four full-time student resource officers – police officers who work on school campuses – with a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice this year.

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Ford and Officer Ann Carney are stationed at Natchez High School; Officer Kimberly Allen is stationed at Robert Lewis Middle School; and Clarence Hayes Jr. will begin work at the Central Alternative School Monday.

The veteran officers of the Natchez Police Department say the idea is to improve campus security, but to also build relationships with the students.

&uot;For me it’s to get to know the kids, and let them know they can come to us because a lot of kids are scared of cops,&uot; Carney said. &uot;Police are here to protect you, not to hurt you.&uot;

During the first few days of school, the officers have been making themselves visible on campus and talking with the students.

&uot;So far they seem to be glad that we’re here – the kids do,&uot; Carney said.

The officers wear the uniforms and have the same power to arrest or issue tickets.

Ford said those arrest powers serve as a deterrent to crime. &uot;If you do an infraction in front of the police you might … end up in jail,&uot; Ford said.

Having patrol cars on campus also has an impact, Ford said.

Although a patrol car will not be stationed at the high school until next week, Ford said he understood that a patrol car at the middle school made an impact this week.

&uot;By that car being there it sets a tone,&uot; Ford said. &uot;The element of authority is here.&uot;

Alex Reynolds, a 17-year-old senior at Natchez High School, said it was all right to have the officers on campus. It means you have to &uot;just stay out of trouble,&uot; he said.

Ford said if the officers practiced consistency having them on campus would make for a better school.

&uot;I just want the school to be the best that it can be, because my kids have to come through here,&uot; Ford said.