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Safety in schools is our major concern: Chief Lopez

Safety in schools is our major concern: Chief Lopez

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Chief Edwin Lopez has been with the Miami-Dade County Public Schools system for more than 20 years. Last month he was sworn in as the department’s first Hispanic police chief.

A former physical education teacher prior to his start in law enforcement, who worked his way up the ranks to chief of police,” is a description that perfectly fits Chief Edwin Lopez’s professionalism and commitment to the Miami-Dade Schools Police Department (MDSPD) over the years, which led him to be the first Hispanic to hold the position.

“I started as a teacher in elementary school.  I did that for a couple of years and then I wanted to have a greater positive impact on the children’s education,” said Chief Lopez.  “While being there, I realized that children had a negative view of and even were afraid of the police.  I wanted to change that image in order to build a stronger relationship between us because, at the end of the day, children are the ones who give us information to help prevent crime. That was what really motivated me to move from being a school teacher to a police officer.”

According to Alberto Carvalho, Miami-Dade County Public Schools Superintendent, he is the right man for the job.  Carvalho showed his support for the newly appointed Chief Lopez on his Twitter account and posted, “He is an educator’s chief and wears his uniform with pride, integrity and dignity. He followed a calling to not only inspire but to also serve and protect.”

Being an educator is his precise advantage to lead the department. Having been a school teacher allows Chief Lopez to know his work from both perspectives and thus have a fluid relationship and collaboration with the schools’ principals and with the police officers under his command. He is currently in charge of 200 officers and approximately a thousand security guards.

Lopez, who had served as interim chief since April, replaces former Chief Ian Moffet, who was moved to the role of Chief School Safety and Compliance Officer. The shift in personnel is in response to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas School shooting massacre that killed 17 students and teachers in February.

The Parkland shooting sparked a statewide public safety act that requires every public school to have sworn officers at all schools, a requirement under a gun bill that Governor Rick Scott signed into law last March.

“We will have at least one school resource officer for the first time in the district’s history, starting with the 2018-2019 school year. We usually have sworn officers in secondary schools (middle schools and high schools), but now we will have officers in elementary schools and K-8 centers as well, ensuring more security in the entire district,” said Lopez.

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MDSPD will continue to enroll officers to comply with the new legislation. There are currently 360 schools in the district and the goal is to have more than 360 sworn officers available to assist schools. “Superintendent Carvalho has given us all the support to ensure that we will have all the possible resources and be able to swear in all the new officers we need,” explained Chief Lopez.

The department is also asking for retired police officers to come back to work. Last July, 20 officers were sworn in, most of them retired officers who had previously served in other agencies.  “Retired officers are very important to us because they have experience and training; therefore, they are ready for active duty. Whereas training for newly incorporated officers may last from three to five months,” Lopez added.

Haz clic para leer en Español: La seguridad en las escuelas es nuestra mayor preocupación: Chief Lopez

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