State And Regional

Richmond superintendent, police chief discuss new district police department

RICHMOND — When kids go back to class in Richmond in just a few weeks, they will have school resource officers from the district’s brand-new police department.

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People are voicing some concerns.

News Center 7′s John Bedell spoke with both Curtis Wright, the superintendent of Richmond Community Schools, and Rick Thalls, the new police chief on Friday.

“Why did the district decide to make this change?” Bedell asked Wright.

“We feel that this time it’s in our interest to establish our own police department, to provide for students in an autonomous way that allows us to uniquely meet their needs,” answered Wright.

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Bedell said just last month, Richmond Community Schools ended its contract with the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office to manage its School Resource Officer (SRO) program.

Instead, the district decided to form its own police department.

“I now call the June 14 business meeting to order,” the district announced before its June school board meeting. “Please rise for the Pledge of Allegiance.”

Richmond’s School Board voted 5-2 in favor of that move at that board meeting. School board member and Richmond Police Officer, Aaron Stevens, was one of two ‘no’ votes at that meeting.

He says he supports the decision but has expressed concerns.

“From my professional standpoint, the timeline of this has me greatly concerned,” he said at the time. “We’re less than two months away from the beginning of school.”

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This week, Bedell said the board approved making Thalls the new Richmond Community Schools Police Department Chief.

He spent years in law enforcement with the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office before working for the district last year as one of its school resource officers.

“These officers, how will find them and hire them? And how will they be trained once they are hired? Bedell asked Thalls on Friday.

“All our officers, myself included, are returning as Tier 1 officers,” he answered. “(We) have graduated from the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy. We’re all up to date on all of our training.”

Chief Thalls said “Tier 1″ is the state of Indiana’s highest level of law enforcement certification.

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Bedell reports Thalls and the other school resource officers from last year will be the new department’s SROs for the district this year.

They will be focusing on what the district says is its top priority, the safety and security of its students.

“When students feel safe and secure, then they at that point can reach their utmost potential,” said Dr. Wright.

The school district told Bedell Friday they are hoping to hire a fourth school resource officer for its new police department between now and the start of the new school year. That’s in about three weeks in Richmond.

The first day of classes for Richmond Community Schools is August 7.

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