The City of Waskom gathered to receive multiple bulletproof shields designed to enhance school campus security this past Thursday.
The community of Waskom came together at the local Waskom Community Center, spearheaded by city partners including the Waskom Police Department’s Chief Westy Meisenheimer, Waskom ISD Superintendent Rae Ann Patty, Harrison County Sheriff Brandon ‘BJ’ Fletcher and Harrison County Judge Chad Sims, to receive multiple bulletproof shields to be used with the aim of increasing school security.
“We’ve got a lot of good people working real hard behind the scenes to do the best we can to make our community safe,” said Meisenheimer. “We’ve come a long way and we’re going pretty good, but we’ve got a long way to go.”
The bulletproof shields are full body height, portable and stand upright, allowing officers using them to have their hands free if needed and feature a window for visibility when maneuvering. The shields are built on rolling wheels and are designed to move through school campuses in hallways and in classrooms.
“These shields are a real game changer for us, and it definitely is for our frontline officers,” Meisenheimer. “It’s going to give them a lot better chance of surviving the front line.”
The schools at Waskom ISD — both the high school campus as well as the middle school and elementary campus — will each have one of the shields strategically placed to enhance security response and will be available for officers to use in case of an emergency. These will be used in addition to the security plan established by the school district in partnership with the city, which allows Lt. Michael McGuire to assist with campus security and provide any necessary maintenance on a weekly basis.
“My school’s goal, like every other school, is to get everybody home at the end of the day, safe and sound delivered to their parents in the same shape that they send them to us in,” said Patty. “That’s what I feel like these are going to help us do.”
The receival of these bulletproof shields comes after the school district’s implementation of the Raptor Alert silent panic alarm designed specifically for emergency management for school campuses, giving teachers and staff the ability to send secure alerts including updates, as well as lockdown and evacuate requests.
“This is more safety for the people that are going to come in and save our kids and do what’s necessary on those days,” said Patty.
The shields were purchased with the assistance of the local business Five Star Builders, in combination with used funds saved and donated by the county — led by Judge Chad Sims, who assisted in securing the funding needed.
“We’re not just looking out for county interest,” said Judge Sims. “We’re here to be a community partner. And everything we do, we try to think about how we can help you guys, our schools and our cities. We’re here to help and do what we can.”
The City of Waskom partners each agreed to pursue the acquisition of the bulletproof shields to enhance school security in response to the recent shootings in the state and provide great accessibility for first responders. They have been working for months on securing funding, selecting the models of shields needed, and planning strategy of their use.
“Y’all see that as a shield, I view that as a type of chance,” said Sheriff Fletcher. “Because when they get there, they’re going to go with it or they’re going to go without it, but they’re going to go. We train to go to the sound of the gun and you don’t wait on anybody. You don’t wait on a go ahead, you don’t wait for permission, you don’t wait for another unit. You go as soon as you get there.”
“The importance for us to have that, if you’re going to be the one that goes is huge, it is absolutely huge” said Fletcher. “Thank you all for putting our school district first in your mind as a community.”