By Greg Gelpi
Police officers credited with helping prevent a potential Columbine-like plot were recognized nationally.
The National Association of School Resource Officers named Clayton County police officers Barry Davis and Mitch Kincaid national resource officers of the year. The officers uncovered and responded to a Lovejoy High School student's plot to kill countless classmates and staff members in October.
"Barry plays a very important role in this school," Lovejoy High Principal Mike Duncan said. "He doesn't walk in here with a John Wayne attitude."
Winning the trust of the Lovejoy students after a few months at the school, Davis built relationships with students, which led to a student revealing a classmate's plot to pull a fire alarm, block exterior doors and shoot people as they tried to evacuate.
"He is fabulous with dealing with kids," Duncan said. "Anywhere there's large groups of students he is there."
Davis is "wonderful de-escalating situations," he said.
Just keep talking with students and they will open up and become friends, Davis said.
"You make friends with some of the students and you learn what's going on," Davis said.
Monitoring the school hallway between classes, a student passed by and gave him a high five.
"When I learned about (the plot), I knew that I needed help," Davis said.
Learning of the plot, he called in the support of Kincaid who assisted in the investigation.
"(Kincaid) is always quick to respond to an outcry," said Clayton County Police Sgt. Scott Stubbs, the assistant commander of the SRO program, who nominated Davis and Kincaid. "I knew it deserved some recognition on the national level."
Through an open door policy, Kincaid is always "talking to kids like they are people too," Stubbs said. "We don't have to micromanage them. We give them the training and they do their job. Children don't have to worry about coming to school."
The school resource officer program is a coordinated effort between the Clayton County school system, Clayton County Police Department and law enforcement from county municipalities, said Jack Warren, the school system's administrative assistant for policy and legislation.
"Our school resource officers are more than just officers," Warren said, explaining the officers put law enforcement in a positive light, as opposed to the image of officers only making arrests. "They are just a valuable resource to us."
The school resource officers harvest information from students and share the information with other agencies to prevent incidents before they happen, he said.
"If you think about it, a lot of the high schools have more ?citizens' than many towns in the state of Georgia," Warren said. "Most people have very few relationships with police officers except to put their hands on the trunk."
The Clayton County Police Department will recognize Kincaid and Davis during a meeting Sept. 7, said Lt. Greg Porter, the commander of the SRO program.
"I think it's not only a good thing for the county, but for the SROs as a whole," Porter said.
The officers went "beyond normal protocol" to "safeguard that school, those students, that staff and that community," he said.