Knoxville schools will no longer have a police presence, per a joint letter issued by Knoxville Mayor Indya Kincannon and the Knoxville Police Department (KPD). The mayor and KPD pulled the plug on an agreement in which KPD supplied officers as security for Knox County Schools (KCS).
KPD officers will be pulled from schools by June 12 – the latest date of graduations occurring. The letter explained that KCS’s internal security and mental health professionals have grown since the agreement took place, making it unnecessary to have KPD assistance.
“I have profound appreciation and the utmost respect for the Board of Education’s role in ensuring that all children have access to a high-quality education in a safe, nurturing environment. As the Knox County School’s internal School Security Division has grown, and as you now have resources to add mental health professionals to schools, we agree that it is time to have a public dialogue about our respective roles to ensure school safety,” read the letter. “Please know that the Knoxville Police Department will always be ready to respond to emergencies in and around our schools, no matter what.”
The Tennessee Star inquired with the mayor’s office, the Knox County Board of Education, and KCS Superintendent Bob Thomas about this decision. Neither the mayor’s office or the board responded with comment by press time; Thomas’s spokesperson referred The Star to the board.
Both Thomas and members of the Knox County Board of Education were reportedly surprised by the announcement. Thomas told reporters that KCS hoped to have more discussion about instilling some type of law enforcement presence within the schools.
“I was surprised with the decision by Mayor Kincannon and Chief Thomas to withdraw from the [Memorandum of Agreement] MOA at the end of this school year; however, I am grateful that they are willing to have further conversations about it,” said Thomas.
Kincannon’s decision came less than a month after the Austin-East Magnet High School shooting. KPD officers shot and killed an armed, 17-year-old teenage student, Anthony Thompson Jr., following an altercation in one of the campus bathrooms. Officers were following up on a report of domestic abuse; Thompson had reportedly assaulted his then-girlfriend while at school that day.
Thompson’s gun, hidden in his hoodie pocket, fired once and hit a trash can as officers attempted to detain him. An officer responded by shooting Thompson. No officers were shot.
Knox County District Attorney Charme Allen informed the public during a press conference that Thompson was given an advance warning that officers were coming to the school.
Based on the body camera footage, Allen determined that the officers involved wouldn’t face charges.
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Corinne Murdock is a reporter at The Tennessee Star and the Star News Network. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Mayor Indya Kincannon” by Mayor Indya Kincannon.