ARLINGTON, Va. (ABC7) — School resource officers are often the last line of defense for children during a school shooting. In light of the deadly shooting in Parkland, Florida, Arlington County Police try to reassure the students they are safe.
The day after her college graduation, Tiffanie Haag joined the Arlington County police force. Eleven years later, she’s a detective and now responsible for six elementary schools.
“One of my schools, we have dance party during lunch on Fridays so that’s a fun time for kids to see the other side of us,” Haag said with a smile.
Thirteen Arlington officers spend their days trying to build relationships with 27,000 students enrolled at Arlington County Public Schools. The officers’ uniforms and bulletproof vests are a reminder that they’re also there to protect the children from harm.
“We hope it never happens here but if it were to happen, we are prepared to react and prepared to take the action necessary to save as many lives as we possibly can,” said Sgt. Rick Rodriguez of the Arlington County Police Department.
Rodriguez oversees the school resource unit. A lot has changed since he once walked the hallways as a school resource officer two decades ago. He said Columbine was the turning point and after every school shooting since then, law enforcement trains and tries to prevent the next one at a place where kids should feel safe.
“A place of learning, a place where they expect to walk in and walk out at the end of the day,” he said.
Haag decided to become a school resource officer once she became a mom.
“I wanted to be that person that would be there for my kid. That’s why the kids in the building are so important to me and they’re like my own,” she said.
That dedication makes the officers just vital as teachers to Arlington County Public Schools.
“For our students, for our staff, for administrators, they are very much a part of the community and very much woven into our school,” said Cintia Johnson, the assistant superintendent for administrative services.
After the news of the Florida high school shooting, Haag tried to reassure her students Thursday.
“I could tell they had seen something that was a bit disturbing to them but I smiled, I waved, I gave them their usual high-fives,” she said.
Haag said as a police officer and a parent, it’s her job to shoulder the worry.
“These kids, I would put my life on the line for them,” she said.
“I know that when they go to their schools, the schools are in good hands,” said Rodriguez.