First Arkansas school district creates own police department

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POTTSVILLE, Ark. — Pottsville native Tina Duvall knows starting something new takes a lot of hard work.

“We added a new flare. We make our dough fresh every day,” she said showing us around her restaurant.

She just opened Arkansas River Pizza Company this summer.

But she’s not the only one trying something new in here.

The small school district outside Russellville is serving up safety by starting its own police department.

“It’s just all about being proactive and for the safety of our kids,” Dugger said.

Over the phone, Pottsville Superintendent Larry Dugger says the district was already reimbursing the city for the school resource officer’s (SRO) salaries, so the budget won’t change.

“You put your money in what you value,” he said.

He says this way, the officer’s priority is always the students.

“Those law officers actually worked for the city, so if the city needed them they could call them away from the school at any time,” Dugger said.

“They can get pulled away and that could be the day that something happens,” Duvall said.

Now the high school, junior high and grade school campus will all have a full-time officer with both full law enforcement and SRO training.

“You never can have your kids too safe,” Duvall said. She has family who attends school within the district.

Several other districts in the state have been approved to start their own police departments, but Pottsville is the first and spearheaded the idea to lawmaker Deanne Davis more than a year ago.

The legislation allowing school districts to create its own police department passed and went into effect on July 24.

It’s designed to be similar but on a smaller scale to university police departments.

The changes give Duvall pride not just in her pizzas, but her community.

“I think it’s great that we’re going to lead the way in creating something to ensure our kids have everything they need to be educated, healthy, happy, safe,” she said.

Out of the ten Pottsville officers, three were SROs. Now those three are with the school district.

Any tickets written or arrests made will still be handled through the city courts.

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Aaron Nolan is a morning show co-host in Little Rock, Arkansas with Nexstar Media Group's KARK-TV. He has a passion for social media and makes it an important part of his daily routine. Click here to read Aaron's full bio.

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