Atlanta schools could cut out Atlanta police, start own force

On Monday, the Atlanta school board could take the first steps towards replacing the city police officers currently patrolling schools with school resource officers directly accountable to the district.

That would mean ending the district’s $5.6 million contract with the City of Atlanta.

A spokeswoman for Mayor Kasim Reed called it “a terrible decision.”

“However, if that’s their judgment we will honor it. We don’t believe that this approach would be more responsible in responding to threats that are present on our educational campuses at this time,” Reed spokeswoman Anne Torres said.

The board is scheduled to vote Monday evening on creating new leadership positions in a new safety and security department. The people hired into those jobs would eventually supervise the new department.

Startup costs for a district police department could run into the millions with most of the costs likely paid from the district’s general fund, according to district officials.

The district would hire trained, certified officers who would receive additional training in working with students, district spokeswoman Jill Strickland said.

“This is the first phase of that process,” she said. “We look at this as aligning with our new charter system operating model where there’s more autonomy and flexibility at the school level.”

The new police officers could be in schools at the start of next school year, Strickland said.

Atlanta school superintendent Meria Carstarphen and board chair Courtney English have spoken repeatedly in recent months about the benefits of an in-house security force.

"We've got to be in the business of building meaningful relationships with our students," English told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution last month. Atlanta schools need "people who can build relationships without having that strict law enforcement component."

District records show officers used some type of force — including pepper spray, stun guns and physical “takedowns” — in Atlanta schools 22 times last year.