Lincoln adds officers at each school
LINCOLN — The Lincoln School District for the first time has a full-time, armed commissioned school security officer in each of its school buildings to help protect students and staff. School security officer Paul Shepard, who has 24 years of law enforcement experience with the Fayetteville Police Department, oversees the officers. He said the officers rotate campuses daily. They also work with School Resource Officer Tim Smith with the Lincoln Police Department and with the Washington County Emergency Management Department. Superintendent Mary Ann Spears previously said rotating campuses is a practical decision. “I like it at every campus,” she said. “Their plan is to rotate so they can get to know everyone and become familiar with the people and the layout of the schools.” Shepard said the officers have more than 67 years of experience combined, including more than 20 years as school resource officers, more than 13 years as a criminal investigator and supervisor and hundreds of hours of training and experience related to active-shooter training, deescalation tactics, crisis negotiation, incident command and first aid and trauma care. Police Chief Kenneth Albright, who also is School Board president, previously said a third security officer “is a great supplement” for Lincoln schools. The School District has an enrollment of 1,062 students. The district prefers not to identify its commissioned officers, who are dressed in plainclothes, Albright said. Two of the officers served together in an area police department for more than 20 years. The third commissioned officer is from another state and brings a “different perspective and balance” to the team, Shepard said. Shepard, who gave a safety presentation during a Community Alliance meeting in October, said a commissioned school security officer for Lincoln is responsible for the safety of students and staff. Each security officer secures doors and monitors hallways, parking lots, offices and the school’s surveillance cameras for any unusual activity. “We are the front-line defense for the schools,” Shepard said in an email about the officers. “Should someone attempt to do harm to anyone at the school, we will do our best to stop the threat. We are present and will take immediate action.” Act 393 of 2015 mandates training requirements for commissioned school security officers in Arkansas. A commissioned school security officer must complete a minimum of 60 hours of additional training and is granted authorization by the Arkansas State Police to carry a firearm while on public school property. An officer is required to be recertified every two years. Some topics covered in training include legal limitations of the use of firearms and the power and authority of a commissioned school security officer, active-shooter training and active-shooter simulation scenarios, trauma care and defensive tactics. One of the responsibilities of the school administration and its security officers, Shepard said, is a district safety plan. “Every safety plan evolves,” he said. “We are committed to being prepared and educating staff and students on how to prepare for an incident.” Shepard said Lincoln’s security system includes a quality surveillance camera system that was recently upgraded. To enter a building, a visitor must either be granted access or checked in through the office. Either way, the visitor is required to press a button, which then displays a live video to the person monitoring the office door, Shepard said. The officers also are working to put preventive measures in place through education. Smith will conduct courses for students and staff throughout the year. “Overall, the district is improving in safety, but we can keep getting better,” Shepard said. The district is using a threeyear, $151,650 federal grant from a program called Stronger Connections for the third security officer and for the curriculum for Smith to teach small group sessions. Lincoln is not the only school district in Northwest Arkansas employing commissioned school security officers. The Springdale School District, for example, established a security officer program in August 2022 and placed an officer at each of the district’s 18 elementary schools.