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School police force gets recertificiation

Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan School Resource Officer Tony Lockard, left, receives a certification plaque from Chief of the Safety and Security Department Wayne Rikard, right, at the Gwinnett County School Police office in Lawrenceville Thursday. Lockard, who also served as the certification manager helped the district pass 129 standards.

Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan School Resource Officer Tony Lockard, left, receives a certification plaque from Chief of the Safety and Security Department Wayne Rikard, right, at the Gwinnett County School Police office in Lawrenceville Thursday. Lockard, who also served as the certification manager helped the district pass 129 standards.

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Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Chief Wayne Rikard of the Safety and Security Department speaks to Gwinnett County Public Schools officials and officers of the Gwinnett County School Police in Lawrenceville Thursday.

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Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan School Resource Officer Tony Lockard who also served as the certification manager expresses his appreciation after the district became re-certified in Lawrenceville Thursday.

LAWRENCEVILLE -- An endorsement by the Georgia Association of Chiefs is more than just a plaque to hang on the wall, said Michael Mansour, district representative of the statewide organization.

"It's earned for doing all the right things," Mansour said. "It polices the police."

Applause rang out from several dozen at the school district's office of safety and security as Mansour presented GCPS' law enforcement department with an award recognizing its recertification. The designation comes on the heels of an announcement by GCPS Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks that the district hopes to soon hire an additional school resource officer for each of its 18 clusters, doubling police presence at all facilities in GCPS.

Out of more than 700 overall law enforcement agencies in the state of Georgia, the Gwinnett County Public Schools Police Department is one of about 100 that are certified. The group celebrated its recertification on Thursday, three years after earning the initial distinction.

Getting certified was tough, but getting rectified can be even tougher, said School Resource Officer Tony Lockard.

Being state certified ensures an agency continues to meet critical standards in law enforcement and noncritical standards in administration. In all there are nearly 130 standards. State-certified agencies also agree to keep policies up to date, so if a law changes, the policy changes.

Wayne Rikard, chief of the office of safety and security, accepted the recertification plaque.

"This couldn't make us more proud," Rikard said, adding that it's the first recertification since the initial certification in 2010. Rikard said that School Resource Officer Tony Lockard helped lead the charge in the department's efforts.

"This demonstrates how professional of a department we have," said Lockard, addressing the group. "We are a small organization, but we have a large heart for the people and students of Gwinnett County Public Schools."

Wilbanks, who attended Thursday's ceremony, said the district's police are a "great force."

"We're all very proud of what they've achieved here," Wilbanks said. "It's a big deal, and getting recertified, it helps remind (staff) about the processes, and it reminds them to go back and make sure they continue to do the things they need to do."