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Schools step up troopers presence

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Franklin students soon will see more police officers walking the halls of their schools, learning the layouts of buildings and the names and faces of students and their teachers.

As part of a statewide focus on getting police more involved in local schools, Franklin schools formed an agreement with Indiana State Police, which will encourage troopers to stop by and patrol the district’s buildings. The goal is to make state troopers more familiar with building layouts and to help them to get to know the students and employees there each day.

Franklin Police Department officers and Johnson County sheriff’s deputies already make periodic stops at Franklin’s eight schools to eat lunch with students, walk the halls or sit in the parking lots while completing paperwork or reports.

Franklin has been continually looking for ways to make its buildings safer following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14, 2012.

Director of operations Bill Doty, who contacted the state police about the partnership, wasn’t worried any Franklin schools were unsafe. But having more officers stopping by provides additional protection, Doty and Indiana State Police Sgt. Rich Myers said.

Other Indiana schools can apply for the Indiana State Police program, but officials didn’t know whether other Johnson County school districts had signed up.

“It’s an added layer of security, and it helps build those relationships between students and police officers and faculty and police officers,” Doty said.

The state police and Franklin haven’t set up a specific schedule when troopers will walk through the schools. But now troopers who are in the area, or who need a place to stop to complete reports or paperwork, can stop by a Franklin school to make sure there are no problems, Doty and Myers said.

Because the high school has security officers at the building during most of the week, Doty may ask state police to go to the middle, intermediate and elementary schools. Eventually, Doty also wants to start tracking how many times officers from police departments stop at Franklin schools and see where they’re spending most of their time.

The new partnership also will be essential if police are ever called to an emergency at a Franklin school, Doty and Myers said.

For example, when police agencies receive reports of a shooter in a school, all nearby officers will respond to the call, including the state police. Troopers who have spent time in the schools already will know the layout of the building and have a better chance of recognizing students and staff who belong there, Doty and Myers said. If an off-duty state trooper in street clothes responds to an emergency at a Franklin school, teachers, principals and students will have a better chance at recognizing the out-of-uniform officer, Doty and Myers said.

“I think it’s imperative that our state police understand what our buildings look like inside,” Doty said.

The Franklin district pays several off-duty police officers who patrol the high school part-time during the school day. The district wants to employ a full-time security officer, but officials have struggled to find the $50,000 that would be needed to pay that employee’s salary.

Last year, the school district received $100,000 from the Franklin Redevelopment Commission that helped pay for buzzers, cameras and more secure elementary school entrances that direct visitors through the front office. The school district also used a $13,250 state grant to pay for buzzers for the entrances of the intermediate, middle and high schools.

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