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Q&A with Sam Moses,

Chief Security Officer at Memphis City Schools



Early this week, a 16-year-old student was shot in the leg at Hamilton High School. The suspect, another Hamilton student, was taken into custody by a Memphis police officer.

Currently, security at Memphis City Schools is shared between a 36 member in-house team and a group of 42 Memphis Police Department officers. But the district is considering establishing its own campus police force similar to that of local colleges.

With a campus police force, MCS would provide day-to-day security and Memphis police officers would only be used for felony crimes such as homicides.

But first a state statute that allows for the creation of police forces must be amended to include public schools.

by Bianca Phillips

Flyer: Why does MCS need its own police force?

Moses: Right now, we do a collaborative effort with the MPD. We have no control. We merely request, ask, and suggest.

MPD operates under one policy. We operate under another. [Officers] can get charged with neglect of duty for making a decision that maybe the principal says is only a little busted nose. Maybe the officer [chooses to let it go], but if a parent lodges a complaint and goes to Internal Affairs, then the officer has to answer to that decision-making. If it was the wrong decision, he can be charged.

How much authority do MCS security officers have?

Our [authority] is only on campus. We have all the powers that a police officer has within our boundaries on campus. We can make physical arrests and searches, but it does not extend into the neighborhood. We have all the powers to take care of what needs to be done, including deadly force. But hopefully, that never occurs.

How many security officers and MPD officers are stationed at each school?

There are some schools that may only have a police officer assigned. There are other schools where we only have an MCS officer assigned. But there are a number of schools were we have a combination that works together.

How do you decide which schools get more than one officer?

It's based on population. There's a minimum of one officer in every high school. Because of a shortage of manpower, MPD hasn't been able to fill every middle school, so we'll have an officer that may share two schools.

Would the new police force be bigger?

We would have 87 officers, enough to cover all middle schools and all high schools.

Would you still need MPD?

I envision that we will handle minor stuff, the disorderly conducts, the fights, and so forth. [MPD] would be the lead agency in any homicide, rape, or robbery that occurs in the schools.

We're not trying to get rid of the police department. We're trying to help the police department by doing some things independently, like arrest and transport on minor offenses

Sometimes we get put on a waiting list for small stuff. They've got the entire public to satisfy. I think it would be a win-win situation for both of us.

Would a new force allow schools to do more weapons checks?

Normally, the checks are manned by the school administration. We help them do it on occasion. If we had an officer in every school, then that might encourage the school to do more.

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