LCSD to partner with USM on sports security research

By HASKEL BURNS,

The Lamar County School District is partnering with the University of Southern Mississippi National Center for Spectator Sports Safety and Security – more commonly known as NCS4 – for research and ideas in addressing safety and security risks and threats at sporting events.

At the request of the university, the school district’s board of trustees approved a Memorandum of Understanding between the two entities to allow the measure.

“We’ve worked with them over the years on a variety of projects,” school district superintendent Tess Smith said. “(Assistant Superintendent Wayne) Folkes and some of our athletic directors attend their conferences. So this is a research thing they’ve asked us to participate in.”

NCS4, which is partially underwritten by grants from the United States Department of Homeland Security, is dedicated to conducting research, enhancing professional development, and assessing security solutions at various events. The organization works with industry professionals, researchers, academics, and national and international government agencies to develop and deploy performance enhancement tools and applications in the face of safety and security challenges.

As part of the Memorandum of Understanding, officials will interview several local sports spectators to get their opinions, ideas and concerns on safety matters at events.

“They’ll get their take on the safety (aspect), from the spectators’ side,” Smith said.

USM established NCS4 in 2006, after the United States Department of Homeland Security identified sports venues as potential targets for terrorism following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The organization remains the nation’s only research center devoted to the study of spectator sports safety and security.

“You can’t anticipate everything, but I feel like we’ve got a great group, as far as planning and safety when it comes to our events,” Smith said. “(School police chief Steve) Rosser oversees a lot of that and works with the principals from event to event.

“When NCS4 first came to be, Mr. Folkes became involved with them, and so it’s kind of worked hand in hand since then. I know that he’s going to be presenting at their annual conference coming up, so it kind of just happened naturally.”