FORT SMITH, Ark. (KNWA) — The Fort Smith School District is creating its own police force just in time for the new school year.
A new law, Act 629, allows certain school districts to have their own police agencies.
Fort Smith is jumping on board.
“What we decided to do was take it to the next level,” says Bill Hollenbeck, Fort Smith Director of Security and Facilities. “We’re able to tailor-make a police agency that is conducive to a learning environment for students.”
Hollenbeck says the new department has seven officers and two supervisors. Four of the officers are SROs from the Fort Smith Police Department.
“It also comes with a certain amount of assets that come with it. Everything from education training equipment, federal government assistance through grants and so forth, also being able to communicate directly and effectively with other law enforcement agencies,” Hollenbeck said.
He adds, “all the previous school security officers were already certified law enforcement officers who just recently retired from other agencies so it was a very easy transition. We didn’t need to hire new officers.”
In addition to its own police department, the district is making additional updates.
“Thanks to the millage and Vision 2023, we added secure entries to several of our schools in Fort Smith. Now, instead of walking into the school they will be directed into the front office and be identified, find out what their business is, and they can be escorted into the school,” Hollenbeck said.
All of this adds to the school officers mission to provide education, protection and mentoring to students and staff.