SEARCY, Ark. (KTHV) -- School shooting tragedies have shaken students and parents all over the country. In the aftermath, security has become a top priority, including here in Central Arkansas.
Some of the latest prevention is coming from the Searcy Police Department. They have new chief on board that just rolled out beefed-up school security checks for officers on patrol. THV 11 had the chance to ride along with one of them on Tuesday.
"This is Southwest Middle School," said Officer Todd Wells during a ride-a-long with THV 11's Max Seigle Thursday.
Southwest Middle School in Searcy is already part of the beat for Officer Todd Wells, but after six years on the force, he's now busy with more checks here.
"This is pretty new," Officer Wells said. "We were never required to show up. Now it's pretty much an order."
It's an order coming from new police chief Jeremy Clark for all patrol officers to expand their school coverage. They are basically incorporating more security checks during the school day when they're not tied up with emergencies.
"The chief wants us at schools, in schools, around the schools--anything we can to make our presence known," Officer Wells said.
During the ride-along Tuesday, Officer Wells got out to "walk the halls" with the principal at Southwest Middle School. Some officers even have lunch with the kids.
"I think it makes them feel better," Officer Wells said. "I know it makes parents feel better. I've talked to some parents, and I know they like our presence."
Chief Clark said, so far, officers are going beyond duty here.
"Yesterday I had previously asked for one officer to go to one of the schools and have lunch with the kids. Yesterday four officers had lunch at four separate schools," Chief Clark said.
"We embrace it. It's just another part of the job. It's not just chasing bad guys and writing tickets. There's more to it," Officer Wells said.
They are on the road and in the halls, all to keep our kids safe at school.
Another big part of this new enforcement is to ease parent worries about their kids' safety at school, in light of the school shooting tragedies, like Sandy Hook. Chief Clark said he's personally heard from parents who remained concerned.
As for any incidents at Searcy schools, THV 11 recently covered a case where a suspect wanted for a traffic stop ran from police into Southwest Middle School. He never hurt anyone and police did catch him.