Shelby County Sheriff Bill Oldham knew it wasn't going to be an assignment to be taken lightly.
Three weeks into the new school year and FOX13 News has found deputies are settling into their posts around the 14 legacy Memphis City Schools they're assigned to provide security for in the merged Shelby County Schools district.
But, are they ready to act if and when mass violence erupts inside or outside the schoolhouse doors?
Even with his decades of experience, Sheriff Oldham knows it's impossible for law enforcement to prevent every violent act before it happens.
"Unfortunately a committed individual with a desire to commit and go through a criminal action certainly can do that at almost anytime of the day," he said.
It's that scary feeling of vulnerability, especially when schools are targeted for violence, that dramatically played out again on Tuesday in Decatur Ga. Luckily, authorities were able to subdue shooting suspect Michael Brandon Hill without any casualties.
It's an incident not lost on Sheriff Oldham and his staff who now have expanded their role in providing security for the new county unified schools system. It's a responsibility his office has been planning for, training for, and working toward implementing for months before schools opened Aug. 5.
"We're there to do two things: 1.) is to keep those children safe, and 2.) is to assist in anyway possible to make sure that they have an opportunity to learn," the sheriff said.
In an exclusive interview with FOX13 News Sheriff Oldham laid out in detail the security measures and the extensive training that's been put into their school security plan. A key component is the placement of specially chosen school resource officers.
"We had background reviews of them," he said. "We looked at their work performance. We looked at their discipline. We had them go through a vetting process."
Earlier this month, in a memo that went public, city of Memphis Chief Administrative Officer George Little expressed concern the sheriff's office didn't have enough deputies to patrol schools within the city limits. Sheriff Oldham points to an increase in school deputies to 43; 33 devoted to work on patrol in the 14 city schools now assigned to his purvey.
That's the same amount of schools Memphis Police was responsible for last year. Sheriff Oldham has also created two "ready response" teams.
"A sergeant and I've got four officers who are patrolling in the city, making visits to schools all over," he said. "They're there for a rapid response. They're also there if our data smart policing model determines that we've got an area where we need to insert additional manpower."
The Shelby County Sheriff's staff stands ready to combat the kind of potentially violent situation Decatur, Ga., authorities managed to snuff out, with an organized multi-level approach deputies have been trained to respond to.
"We included scenarios not only in schools, but in workplace and special events with a number of various disciplines," Sheriff Oldham said. "Planned this and had the cooperation of the FBI in putting together all these scenarios.
"We're going to have to stay on top of this and give it our best effort every day to protect our kids on campus, school staff, and those visitors to those campuses," the sheriff added.
On Friday, Aug. 23 FOX13 News will take up the sheriff's special invitation to ride along with one of the rapid response units patrolling around city schools.