JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - For the first time, the Jackson County School District has armed officers on duty. This year, the district applied for a new state grant to beef up security at its schools. It's a partnership involving the school district, the state, and the sheriff's department.
Shane Langfitt is one of the newest faces on campus. He's one of three new school resource officers in charge of security in the Jackson County School District.
"They'll be very quickly available if a situation arises or just being there to be visible," said Dr. Barry Amacker, Jackson County Schools Superintendent. "It's always great to have a presence of law enforcement in your building."
Two of the officers were hired through the MCOPS program, which was approved by state lawmakers this year. MCOPS stands for Mississippi Community Oriented Policing Services in Schools.
Through the program, the state provides a $10,000 matching grant for each SRO. The Jackson County School District is pitching-in an additional $30,000 for each officer to cover their salaries and benefits.
Langfitt is assigned to St. Martin schools. Mike Krebs will keep watch over East Central schools. And through a partnership with the Jackson County Sheriff's Department, Deputy Linda Jones will be patrolling schools in Vancleave.
"It was a need and I was able to reassign an officer from another division to the school and she's sharp as a tack," said Sheriff Mike Byrd. "They will have full arrest powers. They are certified law enforcement officers, and this is going to curtail we hope any problems that may arise in the future."
The sheriff's department is also providing the vehicles, fuel, and equipment for the officers.
"With everything that's happening in the country, even the state that we've had happen, it's imperative that we be proactive rather than reactive," said Byrd.
According to the state Department of Education, MCOPS is a one-time grant. So it's up the state legislature to decide whether to fund it every year. Even without the additional state funding, the superintendent says the district will find a way to keep the program going, and even expand it.
"They are having to go from campus to campus, but it's a start. We're going to keep striving to make it better and have more officers hopefully, in the future for each campus," said Byrd.
"Sheriff Byrd and I worked together on trying to get this done for a long time and we were finally able to connect some of the dots to make it happen. It's a start and we're very excited about it," said Amacker.
The MCOPS grant totals $5.5 million. The state Department of Education has received 62 applications so far.