Police chief visits schools, reviews security

PATTERSON, La.— Patterson students recently saw their chief of police surveying the schools’ security and mingling with them. Not only was he trying to make sure students were safe, Chief Patrick LaSalle said he also wanted to nurture trust and respect between his department and the kids.

“We need to have these kids running to us and not from us,” LaSalle said of his efforts to bridge a chasm in cooperation between police and the community.

“We have failed in the past by not communicating with the community,” LaSalle said of police actions everywhere which have led to contention rather than cooperation. “So we are going to work closely with these kids and everyone else” to become partners in keeping Patterson safe and secure, LaSalle said.

While he made his visit to the campuses a part of his community outreach endeavor, LaSalle said the primary purpose was to help staff review security issues and coordinate between the school system and police force how they would handle security issues in case a parent’s worst dream happens — a campus involved in an active shooting incident.

Niki Fryou, Hattie Watts Elementary principal, said her campus has five long hallways and having the police know the layout of a campus and who the teachers and staff are is important if an emergency calls for a decisive police presence.

“The chief had some recommendations of what we can do,” Fryou said. “The custodian can do spot checks in different places including the portable buildings. He also suggested we lock the gate on Third Street.”

Suzanne Bergeron, principal of the junior high, said having resource officers on campus not only helps in security but also helps with keeping things running smoothly during mornings and afternoons.

“It is important that students see policemen as the good guys,” Bergeron said. The resource officers and other officers that visit the campus are great role models for the students and it influences their behavior on and off the campus, she said.

Both principals agreed that the integral involvement and cooperation of the local police in the school’s security plans is a good thing.

“Taking care of the children is our number one priority,” Bergeron said.

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