The new school year starts next week and keeping kids safe is on the minds of many parents and law enforcement agents at the Kissimmee Police Department.
We recently sat down with KPD Captain Brandon Layne, who is responsible for managing school resource officers (SROs) in the city to learn more about what his department is during to make this school year a safe one – and what parents can do to play their part.
Osceola News-Gazette: School safety can mean many things to many people. How does the police department set priorities with Kissimmee schools to keep kids safe?
Brandon Layne: The priorities for the Kissimmee Police Department haven’t changed. School safety and the safety of all citizens is the number one priority for KPD.
ONG: The new school year is starting and so is a new state mandate on school resource officers. What has your department been preparing for this the past few months and how do things look heading into the school year?
Layne: The Kissimmee Police Department has been proactive in hiring officers that will fill the positions we have available. Chief Jeff O’Dell has made it a priority to have a sworn law enforcement officer in every public and charter school within the city limits of Kissimmee. There were other program options, but O’Dell felt strongly that having a sworn officer was the best route for KPD.
ONG: Other than SROs, what are other ways KPD is keeping kids safe this school year?
Layne: KPD will be following the guidelines from the new state mandate. We have now dedicated a supervisor to the SRO program that will be in constant communication with district personnel on any issues that may arise during the year. The Kissimmee Police Department is always looking to grow our partnerships with the Boys and Girls Club and the YMCA in order to reach out to our younger citizens. An example is the Kissimmee Police Department will be holding a Friday night basketball tournament with the kids at the Boys and Girls Club on Aug. 24. Additionally, we held our first Teen Academy this summer for over 20 kids.
ONG: Is there a piece of safety advice you don’t think parents hear enough?
Layne: Parents can tell their kids to be proactive in speaking to their school administrators, school staff and SRO about ongoing school issues. Whether that is bullying, cyber bullying or social media posts they find troubling. Parents and students can also utilize our email@example.com email to report suspicious activity at the schools and if the kids see or hear anything concerning, they can utilize Crimeline’s Speak Out Hotline to provide an anonymous tip.
ONG: How big of a threat is cyber bullying, and is KPD working with the district to address it?
Layne: We have asked our SROs to be proactive at the schools in their interactions with the students. We will address any problems on the school level and conduct investigations as needed.
ONG: Are there any new partnerships or programs KPD is doing with the school district this year?
Layne: The Kissimmee Police Department has been working directly with the district this summer to meet all of the state mandates, which includes all of the new programs included in the bill.
ONG: Why is it important for your department to have an active role with our local schools and students?
Layne: Mentorship and relationships will open lines of communications that may have never been there previously. Being in every school will allow us the opportunity to have a sense of continuity that will allow us to build long standing relationships with today’s youth.