Laurel County Sheriff's Office increasing patrols at schools

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LONDON, Ky. (WKYT) - For the past few weeks, Laurel County sheriff John Root has been meeting with other law enforcement agencies and school officials to figure out how to better protect schools with limited funding.

The Sheriff's Office has been focused on school safety for a while, but the Newtown shootings amplified it even more.

"Definitely puts everybody on edge," said Lieutenant Rodney Van Zant of the Laurel County Sheriff's Office.

This month, Van Zant put together some new procedures in an effort to keep kids safe.

"Twenty-some officers, including our detective bureau, will make walkthroughs at every school in the county at least once before the end of February. That'll be put on a regular rotation once per quarter, per year," said Van Zant.

He says their increased presence will help prevent violence, and it will help the officers in the event they ever do have to respond.

"Officers, with that many walkthroughs, will become familiar with the staff, they'll be familiar with the facility and the way it's laid out, different exits and egress points within the school, maybe weak points if there'd be any in the school's layout. All those things will be just another tool in the officer's pocket when he has to deploy to a location," said Van Zant.

School superintendent Dr. Doug Bennett formed the Laurel County School Safety Task Force, which includes many local law enforcement agencies. Van Zant said that task force will put everyone on the same page.

"You've got a number of law enforcement agencies in Laurel County. They all have different responses. Very similar, but nothing standardized," he said.

Van Zant said schools aren't the only place they're focused on safety. They've also had training on rapid response to small businesses and churches. The sheriff plans to petition the fiscal court for funding to hire school resource officers.

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