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Jacksonville ISD police chief to testify before state lawmakers

‘It will not be in vain if schools become safer’
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Published: Jun. 16, 2022 at 6:39 PM CDT
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JACKSONVILLE, Texas (KLTV) - Jacksonville ISD Police Chief Bill Avera will testify before committees in the Texas House and Texas Senate next week about school safety.

Avera will testify not only as the leader of an East Texas school district’s police department, but as the first vice president of the Texas School District Police Chiefs Association.

“It will not be in vain if schools become safer,” Avera said about the recent tragedy in Uvalde. Avera, who helped start Dallas ISD’s police department, plans to push for Texas schools to have more trained law enforcement officers.

“I’ll be in favor of and pushing hard for additional boots on the ground,” Avera said. “It is essential that we get to the point that we have additional armed sworn peace officers, not security people, not volunteers. People that have powers of arrest that are trained to deal with active shooter events, and are trained to deal with children and students.”

Avera said out of the 313 Texas school districts that have police departments, 220 districts have only one to ten officers. (Editor’s note: Avera misspoke during the interview and originally said 120)

Among the other topics Avera plans to address in his testimony: mental health, using social media to learn about threats ahead of time, and securing schools without making them look like prisons.

“We want schools to look like they are community gathering places,” he said. “They’re safe places.”

Avera said while he does agree with some action taken so far by lawmakers, he takes issue with some of the things suggested by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan.

“Some of them will just not work,” Avera said. “It’s one thing to give a bunch of money but it’s another thing to put strings attached to it. So we need to get the right strings on the money and get it in the right hands and not have it just be folded into a general budget somewhere.”

Avera will testify before the Senate committee in Austin on Tuesday and the House committee on Thursday.

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