Oak Ridge Police Chief Jim Akagi says the department has signed a deal with the school district laying out how each entity can contribute to school safety.
The memorandum of understanding (MOU) comes after a Oak Ridge Mayor Tom Beehan and Councilwoman Trina Baughn publicly clashed over her allegations that school conditions had deteriorated to the extent that some children were afraid to go to school.
Baughn said her concerns started while on the campaign trail and persisted after talking to the chief and reviewing a memo sent to council.
In the May 9th memo Chief Akagi describes a climate where school officials appear to prefer to handle potentially criminal behavior within the system, rather than working with police.
"The most important concept must be that criminal investigations take precedence over ORS administrative polices and procedures," wrote the chief.
He went on to say that in some instances the staff "neglected to report potential crimes to ORPD in a timely manner, or in some cases, at all."
He says the MOU, which was finalized the week before school started, lays out the specific responsibilities for school resource officers, the police department, and school employees.
"We are operating in their environment. There are certain rules they have to follow, rules we have to follow and it's always good to talk about them upfront," said Akagi.
Baughn says she's also confident that the MOU will have a positive impact.
"In the end, all the obstacles we've faced and the way we've risen to this challenge as a community is going to be for the best," said Baughn.
Both Akagi and the new superintendent, Bruce Borcher, are relative newcomers to Oak Ridge and the chief credits their strong working relationship with helping to get the deal done.
"We've changed a lot of things at the police department, and I think he intends to change a lot of things at the schools," said Akagi. "I really like Bruce. I think he brings a lot of talent and energy to Oak Ridge Schools."
Borcher, who's been at the helm for two months, said he's also confident in the future.
"I have truly enjoyed partnering with Chief Akagi on this important issue of school safety," Borchers released in a statement. "In addition to being very pleased about having a signed MOU, I am also excited about the level of trust and collaboration that was able to take place today between the city and the school district."
The next step for Oak Ridge School safety will come in about two months. According to City Manager Mark Watson, the city and school district have contracted with a private firm to do a risk assessment of a local middle school.
He says when the results are back in 60 days, they'll craft a plan to address those issues and potentially implement the changes district-wide.