Decision to pull police from Knox County Schools “beyond comprehension” says Anderson County sheriff

Anderson County’s sheriff said he was disappointed in Mayor Kincannon’s decision to pull Knoxville Police Department officers from Knox County Schools, calling the move “beyond comprehension”.
Updated: May. 6, 2021 at 4:33 PM EDT
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ANDERSON Co. Tenn. (WVLT) - Anderson County Sheriff Russell Barker issued a statement Thursday, expressing his disappointment in Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon’s decision to withdraw Knoxville Police Department officers from Knox County Schools.

The announcement to withdraw officers came during a Knox County Schools Board of Education work session meeting Wednesday afternoon after Mayor Kincannon and Knoxville Police Chief Eve Thomas sent board members a joint memo saying KPD officers would be withdrawn from Knox County Schools on June 12.

Through a statement, Anderson County Sheriff Barker said the decision to remove law enforcement from any school is “beyond comprehension”.

“The safety of our educators and students should never be the scapegoat for the political posturing we witnessed yesterday. We are talking about our most vulnerable members of society and such amazing educators falling prey to politics. Differences of opinions will always exist, but never did I think it would jeopardize the safety of a school system,” Barker said.

He continued by saying how fortunate Anderson County is to have leaders “who value the safety of our schools”.

“Additionally, the leaders of the Anderson County Schools, Clinton City Schools, and Oak Ridge City Schools have proven year after year that school safety is their top priority. Are there differences of opinions? I’m sure. But we all share the same vision when it comes to protecting our students and educators,” he continued.

Barker shared how School Resource Officers in Anderson County Schools have grown over the years and provide “better safety for our students and teachers.”

“As a result of this work, our School Resource Officer unit has grown from 9 to 15. Since 2018, the County Commission and the state of Tennessee has awarded funds to us and the schools to add 6 SRO’s which took us to 15. This was made possible because of a shared vision amongst all of us to make our schools safe. I would be remiss to not mention the amazing work the late Joe Forgety did to make our schools safe. He was a fierce champion for protecting everyone in the county,” he said.

The sheriff concluded his statement by expressing his disappointment with Mayor Kincannon’s decision.

“For the sake of those involved, I pray that she changes her mind. For Anderson County, rest assured that the health, safety, and welfare of our students and teachers will always be a top priority. Our office is 100% committed to protecting our schools and will never let politics or opinions get in the way of that,” the statement reads.

Knox County Sheriff Tom Spangler also released a statement late Wednesday, saying he would not pull 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,” Spangler said.

KPD officers would be withdrawn from Knox County Schools on June 12.

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