HARRIS COUNTY, Texas — Harris County Precinct 4 Constable Mark Herman is assuring parents that student safety is at the top of his department's mind as the school year is set to begin.
On Monday, Herman and school district police chiefs inside Precinct 4 got together to let parents know what's being done to ensure student safety.
“The safety of our kids ... that is paramount to us,” Herman said.
Herman said his top priority is clear: Herman assured parents that his department is using whatever resources they have to keep kids safe.
Last week, Herman met with the staff of the six independent school districts within Precinct 4, which has the largest student population in Harris County. He said his department will provide hundreds of deputy constables and equipment. Humble and Klein ISDs return to school this week while the other four districts begin in the next few weeks.
“I can tell you that my office has already begun mobilizing personnel, equipment ... different types of equipment ... to in and around these ISDs depending on the needs of each police chief and their staff,” Herman said.
Herman didn’t give specific numbers but said that he's prepared and that the ISDs can use his AR-15 rifles if they need them.
“I can tell you I have everything I need to take care of our kids out here,” Herman said.
Herman said there's a plan for each district and that deputy constables are specifically used in each one. He said that from walking through schools to having a presence inside and even working traffic enforcement, his department will take care of what needs to be done.
By the end of the school year, Herman said the cost will be in the millions.
“The ISD representatives here and their chiefs ... we’ve made hard decisions. We’ve prioritized. We know this is important,” he said.
While there might be an added public focus on policing in schools after the Uvalde tragedy, Herman said the safety plans are an annual process.
“I feel very good about where we’re at for our kids,” he said.
According to a recent KHOU 11 News survey of parents of students, their top concern is school security.
Herman's reassurance came after last week's announcement by Houston ISD Superintendent Millard House II that HISD officers were not prepared to take down an active shooter if one got on campus. House said the officers need more rifles and ballistic shields.
HISD is the largest school district in Texas. Four other local school districts were asked about the state of their safety gear.
Officials from Aldine and Katy ISDs said they're looking into it while Klein and Fort Bend ISDs said that divulging numbers on weapons and shields could potentially compromise safety.
A Klein ISD spokesperson said that before the Uvalde massacre, they installed better locks and security cameras. Herman said he has seen the safety plans for Humble ISD and Klein ISD and they're "completely covered." He also said he has hundreds of AR-15 rifles and he's willing to share with districts that need them.
“If they need AR-15 rifles, I’ma let ‘em use my AR-15 rifles. But again, I can tell you I have everything I need to take care of our kids out here and take care of our communities, and the things I don’t have, you won’t hear about it," Herman said.
A Fort Bend ISD spokesperson said the board recently approved more than $4 million to add more perimeter fencing to elementary campuses as well as weapon-detection systems at athletic facilities. The chief of the Fort Bend ISD Police Department said last week that there are two officers at every district high school, one at every middle school, but none at elementary schools. Chief David Rider said that putting officers at every elementary would nearly double the size of the department and cost the district extra money.
Cy-Fair ISD and Spring Branch ISD officials said they both purchased surplus military gear through a Department of Defense program. Records show that rifles, pistols, tactical gear and even a mine-resistant vehicle were purchased.
Aldine ISD Police Chief Paul Cordova said the district has a number of rifles and shields, but wouldn't disclose how many due to security reasons. Cordova said his department has 66 officers for 62,000 students, which he said is "sufficient."
He said security upgrades, alert systems and IT monitoring software could help keep campuses safe.