COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL)— As the 2022/23 school year is just getting started, students may notice teachers aren’t the only staff on campus in Muscogee County schools.

WRBL spent a day alongside several officers of the Muscogee County School District’s Police Department (MCSDP) to gain insight on their roles within the school system, and to introduce students and parents to these officers tasked with watching over roughly 31,000 students across the 52 schools throughout the school year.

MCSDP originated just three years ago in April of 2019. All of the officers have gone through training in de-escalation, community policing, cultural awareness, and various forms of first aid.

Chief Greg Arp created this program alongside Capt. James Morris, together they worked with the Board of Education in structuring a department that had the opportunity to interact with students daily.

“One of the unique aspects of this program that is kind of unsung is the ability that these officers have to change a young person’s life. People often see us and they think, ‘well, they’re just police officers. They’re there only to arrest people,’ and that is not the case,” Chief Arp says.

By going into classes, helping the admin staff, and working alongside students they are able to create a positive outlook on law enforcement. Cpl. Tiffany Duffie has been apart of the department since it’s genesis, she remembers its startup. 

“It was very interesting because it was establishing a purpose of the school resource officer that differentiate from just being security. But we were also building, a relationship with the kids and the staff as a whole. So it was just wonderful to see that transition where that distrust turned to trust and friendship as well,” Cpl. Duffie recalls.

Chief Arp’s officers operate on what the National Association of School Resource Officers call a triad method where they serve as a counselor, teacher, and law enforcement officer. While a major part of their job is keeping the students and faculty safe across the county, it goes beyond just patrolling hallways.

“With a couple of kids when you first talk to them, their attitude is, ‘forget the police all, y’all the same,’ this and that so we get to talk to them so they get to know me as a person and I let them know we are here to protect you all.  We are mentors not just this stereotypical police that everybody talks about. After that it changes the way they look at us and how they view police officers,” Officer Brandon Ingram (pictured to the right) shares.

(The photo to the right was originally posted to Muscogee County School District Police Department’s Facebook page @mcsdpolice captioned, “First Week of School 2022! Officer Ingram visited the kids at Martin Luther King, Jr Elementary School. Martin Luther King, Jr Elementary School is always an exciting place for Officer Ingram to visit because he once attended this school himself.”)

Their daily actions impacts the outlook students have on law enforcement.

“It starts with them kids being younger and then growing up. So we can have an impact when they’re younger so they know that we’re here for them, to support them, to mentor them, and to let them know that they’re safe,” Officer Brittany Contreras explains.

Sometimes the officers are just a friendly face for students to run to for support. 

“I’m also there helping mentor kids who may have a little trouble, or not having trouble. Maybe Just needed somebody to talk to. A lot of times the kids will just walk up and say, ‘Hey, Officer Perkins, I’ve got a 90 on my test. Remember I was telling you I was so worried about it,’ and just seeing them do that, just put a smile on my face knowing that that I’m there for them,” Officer 1st Class Ralph Perkins says.

Those who greet Officer Perkins are also greeted by a four-legged friend apart of the team who doubles as a drug dog and emotional support animal. Buddy is the whole package who comes with coloring books and stickers as well.

Currently these officers are stationed in middle and high schools. However, this school year the department is adding eight more officers to the team and incorporating 12 part time Columbus Police Department officers to step in and patrol when necessary to ensure maximum safety and support for the students.

“You send your kids to us every day. We want to protect that. We want to get them home safe. And we want to provide them an environment in which they can grow and learn and prosper and be productive citizens once they graduate, so we take their safety and their security very seriously, and we will defend them with our lives if necessary,” Chief Arp asserts.

These are just a few of the officers that make up the department and where to find them.

Meet some of the Muscogee County School District Police Department

Chief Greg Arp

Chief Arp was the first person to join the MCSDPD, he played a major role in creating the department in April of 2019. He worked alongside the Board of Education and Capt. James Morris to mold the department into what it is now. He is a 28 year veteran of law enforcement working in various capacities including police chief and chief investigator.

Captain James Morris

Capt. Morris was also influential in creating this department in 2019. Before joining Muscogee County he started the Cherokee County School Police Department where he spent 20 years. In addition to his experience in the CCSPD he also worked in the sheriff’s department totaling 28 years of experience in law enforcement.

Sergeant Randy Brown

Sgt. Brown says he was the fourth person hired into the MCSDPD. Previously he worked for the Columbus Police Department for 34 years serving in various capacities, one of which he was a certified D.A.R.E officer. In that role he worked inside the MCSD for 17 years before the MCSDPD started.

Corporal Tiffany Duffie

Cpl. Duffie has been with the school district since it’s inception in 2019. She joined the MCSDPD with previous experience with the Columbus State Police Department and the Columbus Police Department. She also holds teaching experience back from her time before working in law enforcement. Cpl. Duffie is primarily at Blackmon Road Middle School. She says she loves being able to go into the classrooms and work with the kids.

Officer 1st Class Ralph Perkins

Officer 1st Class Perkins joined the MCSDPD shortly after its genesis. He joined the department with previous experience in the military and the Columbus Police Department. Officer Perkins has worked has a handler before but has been Buddy’s handler in the school district for about a year. He says his transition into the school district was natural as he also worked as a football coach. Students may see him mostly at Hardaway High School.

Officer Dominick Williams

Officer Williams has been with the school district for three years. He says his passion for law enforcement started young when he realized his dream to be a police officer as a child. He has previous experience as a police officer outside of the school district. Officer Williams cites his passion of working with kids for making the switch into the school district. Students can find him primarily at Carver High School.

Officer Brittany Contreras

Officer Contreras has been with the school district for three years, bringing previous experience from the Columbus Police Department. She says she loves serving as a mentor to the students and joining them in the classrooms. “I absolutely love working with the kids. Being able to go into classrooms, read to the kids, being a mentor, and just seeing their face light up when we come into the school because they know that we’re here for them.” She spends most of her time stationed at Midland Middle School.

Officer Brandon Ingram

Officer Ingram recently joined the MCSDPD in March of this year. Before that he served as a deputy in the Muscogee County Sheriff’s Office and also has other law enforcement experience. He cites his love for working with kids for calling him to make the switch into the school district. He is primarily stationed at Spencer High School.

K9 Buddy

K9 Buddy came from Gainesville, Georgia. Now he is with Officer Perkins 24/7 where he serves as a drug dog in the MCSD. While K9 Buddy does not have much to say about his role, his handler Officer Perkins says K9’s are one of law enforcement’s greatest kept secrets. “If you love animals and you love that passion, that drive to see animal grow, it’s probably one of the greatest things you can ever do.” The pair are primarily stationed at Hardaway High School. If you’re a Buddy fan, ask Officer Perkins about the Buddy coloring book and sticker that are available.