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Knoxville Police Dept. to withdraw officers from Knox County Schools

Effective June 12, 2021, Knoxville police will not be patrolling at Knox County Schools.
Published: May. 5, 2021 at 7:04 PM EDT|Updated: May. 6, 2021 at 9:32 PM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon and Knoxville Police Chief Eve Thomas sent a joint memo to the Knox County Schools Board of Education, Knox Co. leadership and Knox County law enforcement saying KPD officers would be withdrawn from Knox County Schools on June 12.

Board members shared the memo and their reactions to it during a Wednesday work session meeting.

In the memo, Chief Thomas expressed that the intent of removing officers from schools is not to say KPD does not want to work with Knox County Schools in the future, but rather by withdrawing from Knox County Schools, there needs to be a discussion of a new Memorandum of Agreement.

Chief Thomas stated how much she appreciates the role of the school board and reflected on the growth of the SSO department over the years.

Knox County Schools Superintendent Bob Thomas said board member Daniel Watson approached him last year regarding the MOA that Mr. Watson presented through his resolution to the Board of Education.

“I know law enforcement provides a very vital role in our schools. Our school security officers do a great job, our school security officers are able to do things maybe law enforcement isn’t able to do as law enforcement is able to do some things maybe school security officers can’t do. The primary goal for me- and I’ve said it and will continue to say it- is the safety of our staff and students. Anything and everything we can do to try to provide the safest environment in which to go to school and for our staff to teach is what I want to do,” said Superintendent Thomas.

Thomas said his understanding is that the resolution is intended to improve how the district operates, not remove law enforcement from schools.

While some board members support the decision many oppose the idea.

“I am saddened at this decision that she has made,” Board Member Betsy Henderson said. “I’m not willing to put our children’s lives at risk for a theory that says we don’t need officers in our schools.”

Several members of the community voiced their disapproval of Henderson’s comments during the meeting. Board members had to constantly ask those in attendance to remain quiet throughout the meeting as there were several outbursts of both applause and objections.

Wednesday evening, Knox County Sheriff Tom Spangler released a statement saying he would not be pulling any of his deputies from Knox County Schools.

“I’m releasing a statement at this late hour in response to the many calls, emails and requests I’ve received this evening in reference to officers being pulled from some Knox County Schools. I took an oath to protect all Knox County Citizens. I will abide by that oath as will our Deputies. We will continue to protect our most vulnerable, which is our children. I am NOT pulling any of our Deputies out of any Knox County School that we are currently in,” Tom Spangler, Sheriff said in a statement Wednesday evening.

KPD officers will be withdrawn from patrolling the schools on June 12.

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