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'Our police department is not prepared' | HISD superintendent, police chief raise security concerns

Houston ISD Police Chief Pedro Lopez told the school board all 200 HISD officers need a shield, rifle and ammunition.

HOUSTON — With just a couple of weeks left until Houston ISD returns, the superintendent said the police department is not prepared.

During a board meeting Thursday night, both the superintendent and police chief were honest.

The school year is fast approaching and, as your Education Station, KHOU 11 wants to make sure you have all the answers you need when sending your child or children back. Take our survey here.

KHOU 11 News will be discussing the upcoming school year with Houston ISD Superintendent Dr. Millard House II in a live interview on Wednesday, Aug. 17 at 7 p.m. Stream it on our app, Facebook page and YouTube channel.

RELATED: KHOU 11 is taking your questions to Houston-area superintendents

They said they’re confident in HISD’s active shooter training, but they’re not confident officers can take down a shooter quickly with the equipment they currently have.

HISD Police Chief Pedro Lopez told the school board all 200 HISD officers need a shield, rifle and ammunition, and they need to know how to use them properly.

He said the disturbing images from the elementary school hallway in Uvalde show officers who didn’t know how to breach a door and quickly neutralize a threat.

RELATED: Sheriff's office was not alerted to Uvalde shooter's firearms purchase. Here's why

HISD Superintendent Millard House II told the board it’s time to invest in that equipment and scenario-based training. He didn’t mince words.

“What I do know is if there was an active shooter in HISD, our police department is not prepared,” the superintendent said.

The board ended up tabling the discussion until closed session because there were concerns that talking about it publicly would alert someone with bad intentions about the police department’s vulnerabilities.

RELATED: 'Safe School Commission' preparing to make recommendations for Harris County schools

But during open session, some board members questioned the spending, wanting to know if buying all this equipment is based on emotions or research.

But others shared that they’ve heard from parents who are concerned about this issue going into the new school year.

On Friday, Superintendent Millard House II issued the following statement on the steps the district has taken to ensure student safety:

"Along with our Board of Trustees and the HISD community, I will continue to be a tireless advocate for doing what is necessary to keep our students and staff safe. As we look forward to a new school year, HISD parents can rest assured that HISD Police, school administrators, and staff will continue to enforce existing safety measures while exploring areas of improvement to ensure the highest standard of safety.

"As an HISD parent myself, the safety and security of our students and staff is my highest priority.  Prior to the tragic events in Uvalde, the administration decided to withhold any cuts to the HISD Police Department within our district for this very reason. Our officers need the proper training and equipment so that the district is prepared for a worst-case scenario. As I shared at our recent Board meeting, our current assessment is that HISD PD needs additional equipment and resources to ensure they are prepared to respond to just that kind of situation. That is why we’ve put forward several safety-related items before the Board for approval on next week’s agenda.

"Here’s what the district has been doing to increase safety across our system. Over the summer, several HISD schools received upgrades to fencing, cameras, and video storage capacity. The HISD Police Department staffs all middle and high schools with a School Resource Officer on site. Elementary schools are assigned dedicated patrol units who monitor these areas throughout the day.  HISD Police is also in the process of conducting school audits as directed by the Texas Education Agency prior to the start of the school year on August 22, 2022.

"The conversation of safety and security cannot stop here. We will continue this conversation with our communities and the Board of Trustees in the weeks and months ahead. Above all else, it is our responsibility as educational leaders to create safe schools so that students and teachers can focus on the achievement of academic excellence."

Stephanie Whitfield on social media: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

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