With gaps in coverage, Round Rock ISD plans its own police department

Williamson County

Plans are now in place for the Round Rock Independent School District to form its own police department, after the district said gaps in police coverage on campuses became a concern.

Currently, the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office and Round Rock Police Department provide school resource officers who protect students and staff on RRISD’s 55 campuses.

But the “patchwork approach” has grown to be a problem, said Superintendent Steve Flores, Police Chief Allen Banks and Sheriff Robert Chody in a joint letter Friday.

The officials say the existing arrangements have created situations where, for example, a middle school is staffed by an officer from Austin Community College and Grisham Middle School’s position was left vacant as the Sheriff’s Office seeks candidates to fill the position.

“That was a surprise,” Deborah Frankhouser said. She said her 14-year-old son is an 8th grader at Grisham Middle. “I know my son had said that he liked the previous one.”

Frankhouser told us she has some questions about how the district will fund creating a new department, but she said: “I can see how it could create some consistency that maybe they don’t get right now.”

“Even when I went to high school, we always had the same officer there,” said another parent, Jenni Jones. “We all knew him. We built a relationship with him. They know they can build trust.”

Jones told us she has twins who attend Grisham Middle School.

When we told her RRISD does not have its own police force, she said, “I had no idea. Actually, I’m kind of shocked that they didn’t have their own.”

By creating its own police department, Round Rock ISD says it will have direct oversight over recruitment and staffing of campus police officers.

But that also means it will take on the responsibility of investing in things like equipment and police vehicles.

Some people, however, wondered if that money could be used elsewhere.

One grandparent said, “I know there are things that are going on, but I personally feel like that money should be spent on the teachers. Teachers have to buy their own supplies. That’s not right.”

The school district already pays RRPD and the sheriff’s office salary costs during the school year for the officers and deputies who staff its schools. 

Round Rock ISD told us it’s the largest school district in Texas that does not have its own police department.

They also explained to us in an e-mail, recent events, like the shooting at a school in Parkland, Florida, “have added a sense of urgency, but our absolute top priority has always been and will continue to be keeping our students safe and secure.”

The letter says the board of trustees is continuing to consider next steps and will keep the community updated.

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