Region 16 schools beef up security by adding district police departments

In part two of our special report on school safety, Pronews 7 looks at school districts that are stepping away from the traditional liaison officer, and opting to establish their own police departments, separate from its city. Dumas Independent School District is one of three in Region 16.

Walking up to Dumas High School, one will immediately notice a staple of security that you don't see at many other schools, a marked patrol car, signaling to a would be shooter, they'd be met with resistance.

"It's just the presence because it seems like most of those cases where that type of situation happens very few times do they actually have an officer actually on duty whenever they entered the school, or church, or wherever they go," said Dumas ISD Police Department Chief, Larry Payne.

That's what makes Dumas, Dalhart and Highland Park ISD's different, they have their own district police departments.

"The Texas Education Code permits school districts to create their own police departments," said Payne.

"It really shows that our community really does care about having the department here in school and he does his best to keep us safe," said Dumas High School 12th Grader, Nick Reeves.

The Dumas School District Police Department was created in 1998, long before the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary shined a spotlight on school security. Payne says district security is his top priority.

"We have a lot of surveillance cameras. At the present time all of our elementary schools and our intermediate schools just have one entrance, all other doors are locked. And we're just looking at doing some things, may be like some drills at schools also walking the campuses to make sure those doors are locked," said Payne.

Hundreds of security cameras are at the elementaries, middle and high schools. They're at the football stadium, tennis courts, and ag facility. Most importantly, every school has a police radio, giving them the ability to skip dispatch and talk directly to all emergency responders, cutting down on response time. Payne also says all law enforcement officials can tap into their security cameras and see the activity they need to address, say if a shooter was on campus.

"We don't wait for an incident. We are consistently reviewing what we have in place as far as safety and security.What our school district does is we follow the school safety center recommends four basic drills a year. And that would be the drop and cover, the evacuation drill, the reverse evacuation shelter and place, and also the lockdown drill. It's just better thing to have your own police department because you're here everyday with the kids and their behavior is so much better," said Payne.

Even students say they feel very safe having Payne and one other officer on campus.

"It makes us feel really safe since he's always walking around making sure everything is fine. Just, if we need help for something we just always go to him. He always makes sure we know like, the plan to where to hide and we just go through it all the time," said Dumas High School 12th Grader, Brenda Ordonz.

Just another example, officials say, that shows how the Panhandle people are stepping up to protect our children. So now, we're asking you, "would you rather you child's school district have it's own police department or a liaison officer?"