For nearly two years Shelby County Sheriff Bill Oldham knew the responsibility of providing security for the new county school system was headed his way.
But, next week it starts for real as 140,000 students head toward their schools and classrooms for the new year. Sheriff Oldham said his department has trained and continues to prepare for all possibilities that could threaten the safety of children.
Sheriff Oldham about his department's extra efforts to keep your children safe this 2013-14 school year.
All of us who've been around the track more than once or twice know, when it comes to relay races, handing off the baton can be a tricky and sometimes disastrous process. Now saddled with the full burden of providing school security for 14 Memphis schools in the unified county school system beginning Aug. 5, Sheriff Oldham and his department are ready to run the anchor leg.
"We've been preparing for this for over the last 18 months and we're at the point now we're ready to roll it out," he said.
Oldham and his staff have taken an almost military approach to their preparation. Since there had been some questions as to how the sheriff's personnel would react to their new assignment, the sheriff wants to put doubts to rest.
He points out the reformed multi-agency gang unit is fully prepared to deal with what's been an inner city school nemesis. But, with the cooperation of Memphis Police Director Toney Armstrong, the deputies won't be going in blind in terms of info.
Oldham says he's getting debriefs from MPD on almost a daily basis.
"We've got a two o'clock meeting this afternoon to continue discussion and to talk about the transition and how the information can continue to be shared from his officers who've been there for years to our officers who are just coming in," Sheriff Oldham said.
Of course, sometimes all the intel in the world doesn't provide the same feeling of confidence as training for the real thing. Sheriff Oldham's personnel have gone to great lengths to prepare for the kind of unspeakable acts of school violence and mayhem that have taken horrific tolls across the country.
"Active shooter training, and we've had roughly around 2,800 officers from throughout the entire area who have gone through that, as well as other disciplines," he said. "My SRO command staff has gone out. We've done an assessment on the school as well as the surrounding area. We've talked to the teachers. We've tested our equipment in those school settings and have a good feel for what we can expect.
"We hope it's as seamless as it can be for the families who are involved with their children in the educational process and for the staff that's on hand working with our officers on a daily basis."