Jul 17, 2023 - News

Nashville police address school safety plans amid criticism

Photo illustration of a Metropolitan Nashville Police cruiser with lines radiating from it.

Photo illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios. Photo: Terry Wyatt/Getty Images

Nashville police chief John Drake said his department was "100% committed" to keeping schools safe despite the fact that they lack staffing to place full-time school resource officers at every elementary school.

Driving the news: Gov. Bill Lee criticized Nashville for not seeking state grant funding for these SROs.

  • State lawmakers approved the raft of funding for SROs and other initiatives following The Covenant School shooting.

State of play: Drake told reporters Saturday that the department was seeking grant funding for SRO positions at middle and high schools. But he said the department, which is already understaffed, did not have enough available personnel to add full-time positions at public elementary schools.

  • "We can't ask for grant funding where we don't have full-time staff," Drake said.
  • "If we pull 70 officers from the precincts and put them in schools, then we leave the rest of the community vulnerable."

Catch up quick: In a statement Friday, Lee said "any decision by local government to not use every tool at their disposal is a disservice to parents and teachers who are counting on us."

  • Drake said that adding SRO positions remained a long-term goal.

Between the lines: Cities across the country are struggling with police staffing shortages.

The latest: Drake said he spoke to Lee on Saturday and explained the department's safety plans.

  • The department is launching a specially trained 18-member team to respond to school safety threats.
  • The department already stations overtime officers at elementary schools for parts of the day. Drake said that would continue.

"We're invested in keeping our kids safe," Drake said. "We'll use every resource, every tactic, every innovation that we can use."

Zoom out: The school district and police have been collaborating to improve school safety. Metro Council recently held hearings on gun violence and school safety.


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