Tulsa Public Schools Police Chief Matthias Wicks says he’s up many nights wondering how to glean more from a more robust data system installed by the district a year ago.
Wicks, in speaking Tuesday at the Mayor’s Policing and Community Council, focused on how he wants to better use data to inform decisions for school safety. He was sworn in as head of campus police in July 2017.
Wicks said his department emphasizes finding solutions that aren’t arrests, such as giving students wraparound services or calling mental-health crisis specialists.
“I’m not saying we won’t arrest,” Wicks said. “But we have to look at alternatives. We want our students to graduate.”
Perhaps the Tulsa Police Athletic League is an option to help a struggling student find a sense of self and belonging. Wicks said his job is to create a safe and secure environment so that teachers can teach.
Positive experiences create feelings of safety and security, so he said helping students have fun is key. Maybe an officer visits with a student as a friend for 3 to 5 minutes once a week for two months.
“So if they’re feeling good about the learning process, guess what they aren’t worried about: somebody shooting it up,” Wicks said. “If they’re feeling good about being with their friends they aren’t worried about their friends shooting it up.
“So it’s so important that we create a safe environment where they actually enjoy learning, and they feel good being around each other and that they belong.”
Wicks said if data indicates a particular school has a high concentration of threats or fights or calls, an officer can be dispatched to spend time with counselors. From there, they can find out what the behaviors specific to that school are and if alternative interventions may help.
“I want officers who love what they do, I want officers who can think through a process, come up with a resolution and can also be in alignment with what the district is trying to do,” Wicks said.
Shawn Houchin, campus police’s lead on the records management system, also was in attendance. She said a simple application of the data is resource deployment, such as identifying busy periods in which an extra officer would be helpful.
Wicks called the data system robust. He wants campus police to become more assertive in how it’s applied to operations.
“Our work is evolving on a regular basis,” he said.