DOTHAN, AL (WSFA) - Dothan city leaders are moving forward with plans to create safer schools in the city.
At Tuesday's city commission meeting, Dothan Police Chief Steve Parrish spoke to commissioners about the comprehensive safety plan developed by the department and other local law enforcement officials.
"We're excited about it and think it'll be a template for other agencies and municipalities to follow all over the country," said Chief Parrish.
The city manager and commissioners received the safety plan last week to review.
"It's become more serious as tragic events take place across the nation. We know we're not immune to anything," said Mayor Mark Saliba during the commission meeting.
Chief Parrish says the plan includes protocol starting from the initial call to first responders about a threat.
"Neutralization of the threat, to medical triage, to critical incident stress management follow-up program at the conclusion for those impacted," said Parrish.
He says the plan is more than just placing armed security officers in schools, although that is also included in the plan. Chief Parrish says the department is working with Dothan City Schools now to place security guards in every school until the end of the school year as they wait for approval from the city on the plan, and look for funding options for the comprehensive plan and school safety improvements.
"It'll give us time to finish our threat assessment, search for gr ant funding, and hopefully with commission approval and some financial backing from gr ant or otherwise we can implement this school protection and response initiative in August," said Parrish.
Part of the comprehensive plan also includes the department's ongoing school threat assessments. Tactical officers are visiting each school in the school system to review safety procedures and assess each building's safety measures.
"That could be anything from camera systems to doors, to door locking mechanisms – to quite frankly fencing," Parrish said.
The tactical officers are about halfway through with the school assessments. They plan to finish by mid-May.
Exact numbers on how much the safety improvements will cost is unknown and at this point, it's also a mystery about how it will be funded. Parrish says the school system will could have to cut the biggest check.
"A large portion of the cost will be through Dothan City Schools and acquiring money," said Parrish. "They'll have to prioritize what they want first."
"I know it'll cost a lot of money. Not just for the implementation of it, which is capital expenses, but the operation expenses from year to year as well," said Saliba.
In previous interviews with WSFA, Dothan City Schools Superintendent, Dr. Phyllis Edwards said she hoped the system could get state or federal dollars to pay for safety upgrades. Parrish said the department is working with the system to look for gr ants to fund safety upgrade expenses.
Parrish says while the goal is to be able to permanently implement the comprehensive safety plan in August, he noted the plan is a long-term template and will likely be implemented in phases. It could be a few years before the complete plan is in place.