PSD PD officers gather with Judge Linda Smith for ceremony as school year gets underway

The Polk School District started the school year with a new force to protect students in the classroom thanks to their newly formed police department.

Now those women and men of law enforcement are duly sworn after a special ceremony before Probate Judge Linda Smith.

Before swearing in the officers, Smith said she understood the need for their presence in local schools, and voiced her appreciation for their service.

“I think that it is wonderful that we now have an officer in every school to protect our children,” Smith said. “I’m proud that we have that.”

After the new force raised their right hands and agreed to protect and serve, Superintendent Laurie Atkins also read off a Code of Ethics statement each officer was given a copy of to sign. It provided clear guidance about their responsibilities to protect the faculty, staff and student body at local schools as well as remind the officers that their conduct should always be above board.

Superintendent Laurie Atkins said last Wednesday the additional police presence provided by an in-house police force – like those on college campuses across the nation – gives peace of mind to all in the Polk School District.

“Our main purpose and goal is to make sure that our students and employees are kept safe on a daily basis,” she said.

Prior to the new force, that was handled by a school resource officers from Cedartown and Rockmart police departments, who had to share time between schools depending on the day-to-day needs of the school district.

With the increase of high-profile shootings at schools across the country in past years, and a call from the State Superintendent for local school districts to create their own police departments internally, the district turned to forming their own campus security force with some beginning steps last spring.

Additional security improvements were in place by the time students returned to classrooms this year. For instance, a new partition and doors that only open from inside into the main campus area of Cedartown High School are now in place to funnel visitors into the front office, where they can then report their presence.

The added layer of personnel ensures that any potential incident at the school can receive an immediate response from a trained law enforcement officer.

“We want to make sure that all of our schools are occupied at all times with safety personnel, and this is the only way we could do that,” she said at the conclusion of the Aug. 8 ceremony. “We don’t want overburden our local agencies. They serve such an important role in our community, but we’re very grateful that they have joined us in this partnership.”

That relationship will continue with resource officers still taking a part from local departments, she said. Atkins added they are taking part as partners in the creation of the Polk School District Police Department.

New officers at the schools marked one of the many additions underway as the school year began. Atkins said everything went smoothly through the opening of class on Aug. 3, and through the first full week back overall.

A specific positive she noted that has helped with the Polk School District Police presence on campuses is moving traffic along the mornings and afternoons.

“The presence of the officers, and being able to build a relationship with them right off the bat is very important,” Atkins said. “We think it is going to be a great year.”

The creation of the new department makes it the sixth local law enforcement agency in the county at large, joining three city police departments, the county police and the Sheriff’s Office with sworn officers.