Tulsa Public Schools Police Department Marks 5 Years Of Service
TULSA, Oklahoma - The Tulsa Public Schools Police Department is marking its five years in operation. The department is holding an open house for the public Monday night.
I talked with the TPS Police Chief about the strides made in safety and security since the department got its start.
The Tulsa Public Schools Police Communications and Security Center is full of state of the art equipment. Five years ago, it was just a storage area, with shelves full of boxes of tests.
The district's police chief says commitment from school leaders and voters is making a huge difference.
"That police officers and security officers have a place in schools, but it's not to control behavior if that behavior is not criminal," said Chief Gary Rudick, TPS Police Department.
The department has 23 state-certified sworn officers and 23 state-licensed armed security guards who are mostly staffed at area high schools. The TPS department was started with federal grant money and school bond money, and is now the largest school police department in Oklahoma,
"We've seen a reduction in the last several years in the number of suspensions in the high school level, because of the officers and security officers available, we've seen fewer arrests," Rudick said. "The first year we were in business, we've had over 200 arrests; last year we only had about 88."
Statistics compiled by the department show there were 256 incidents involving weapons in the 2011/12 school year, and that dropped by 28 last year. And there were 83 fewer bullying and harassment complaints last year than the year before.
Officers have access to nearly 3,000 security cameras in buildings across the district.
After the Sandy Hook school shootings, a plan to have cameras in each building by 2015 was accelerated and will now be finished this year.
In the command center, dispatchers can see calls that Tulsa Police and Fire dispatchers see and the campus department can link radio communications with those departments.
"So we're able to coordinate, we can eliminate duplicate call response," said Chief Gary Rudick, Tulsa Public Schools Police Department. "When one person can handle the call, we don't have 10 people going, and we can also determine who the most efficient responder is."
Just this past Friday, a teenager was arrested after trying to take a backpack with a sawed off shotgun inside into a Central High School football game at the Booker T. Washington stadium.