Visitors who attend a Cobb County School District board meeting may not know of the decades of service Cobb Schools Police Officer Phil Bradford dedicated to his country.
Teachers and principals in schools across the district may not know that the school police officer conducting unannounced code red drills once served his nation in the U.S. Army with the same commitment, loyalty, and zeal that he now defends Cobb students and staff.
When elementary students rush up to give Officer Bradford a high five—his favorite part of the job—the kids do not know of his time jumping out of planes around the world. They just see the face of a smiling police officer. That’s what he wants them to see. He wants to build relationships with Cobb students, so they are not afraid to go to a police officer when they need help.
Many of those in the school district who see him every day at the central office have no idea that Officer Bradford once wore the signature green beret of the nation’s most elite soldiers. They see a friendly coworker who’s always upbeat and encouraging—no matter the weather, no matter the stresses of the day. They also don’t know that they are the reason he comes to work.
“I look forward to coming to work every day. I say that because of the people we have working here, in the central office. These people work hard, they are dedicated, they are committed, and they do the best job they can to support those who are doing the frontline work of teaching kids,” Officer Bradford praised.
Part of the reason staff and students do not know about his life before Cobb Schools—what prepared him to keep them safe and secure—is because, like many military leaders, Officer Bradford is humble and always looking to redirect praise to others.
Here’s what you should know about him.
Officer Bradford was a member of the U.S. Army’s elite Special Forces. He also underwent the grueling months-long military courses to earn both the coveted U.S. Army Ranger tab and the Special Forces tab.
In addition to completing U.S. Army Airborne school and collecting the U.S. Army’s master parachutist badge, he also secured foreign “jump wings” from the Nigerian Army, Italian Army, Egyptian Army, and Australian Army.
Retiring as a Lt. Colonel, Officer Bradford served in the U.S. Army for 22 years, amid the height of the Cold War and Operation Desert Shield/Storm. For his exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services and achievements during his last decade in the U.S. Army, the Commanding General of the U.S. Third Army presented him with the illustrious Legion of Merit Award.
That’s the kind of police officer tasked with keeping school campuses across the district safe and secure.
Officer Bradford’s Life of Service Continues
When he retired, the decorated veteran turned his service toward his local community by joining the Cobb County Police Department.
“I’ve always been blessed to find quality organizations where I can further the safety and security mindset, whether it is the Army, the county police, or now the school district,” Officer Bradford said.
During his 19 years with the Cobb PD, Officer Bradford continued to hone his emergency management skills. He served as the liaison between the police department and the Cobb County Emergency Management Agency where he worked on issues related to homeland security. As part of the team, he helped develop emergency response plans that integrated multiple county agencies.
Even while serving with Cobb PD, the security of Cobb Schools was always at the forefront of Officer Bradford’s mind. That’s why he started working on emergency response plans for the schools before he left Cobb PD.
When he was out on patrol, he also made it a point to check in on schools in his area to make sure the campuses were safe and secure.
His passion for safety and security made his transition to the Cobb Schools Police Department an obvious choice. The move to the school district not only allowed him to continue his legacy of service, but he was also able to once again serve his own community.
Officer Bradford Joined the Cobb Schools Team Long Before Signing on as Police Officer
When Officer Bradford was stationed at Fort McPherson in Atlanta, he asked his realtor where the best schools were located. She told him Cobb Schools were the best and so he moved to Cobb in 1991 and never left. In fact, his two sons graduated from Lassiter High School, one of which followed in his father’s footsteps to serve his country in uniform.
Having his own kids attend Cobb Schools may have increased his passion for keeping the schools in his community safe. After all, he understands parents’ concerns and the Cobb community’s focus on security because he is a member of both groups.
“Another reason I look forward to coming to work every day is because we have a Superintendent that makes safety and security one of his top priorities, if not his top priority,” Officer Bradford said.
When Cobb Schools was first in the state to test the new crisis management system AlertPoint, Officer Bradford helped evaluate the new system and train staff on how to use it.
“I still get goosebumps thinking about the capability of AlertPoint and who it empowers. If [a staff member] sees something—no matter where they are on campus—AlertPoint empowers the employee to start getting help,” Officer Bradford explained.
He is excited by how the alert system enables students and staff to move out of harm’s way faster, which is critical when every minute and every second counts.
“That gives me goosebumps right now just thinking about what advantage that gives us to get people moving to a location that can provide them safety and shelter,” the seasoned police officer and military veteran added.
Beyond AlertPoint, Officer Bradford researched and helped implement the SafeSchools Alert Tip line in Cobb. Thanks to the new tip line, students, staff members, and parents are now able to report safety concerns from anywhere, at any time.
Understanding parents’ desire to know how Cobb Schools keep their students safe, Officer Bradford suggests parents visit CobbShield.com to learn more.
One way that Officer Bradford makes sure schools are prepared for an emergency is by managing unannounced code red drills, along with fellow military veteran Officer Harold Saxton. During the drills, the two veterans focus on the processes that staff should use to best keep campuses safe and secure.
Officer Bradford and Officer Saxton’s military backgrounds equipped them with the skills they need to protect Cobb students and train staff on how to react in the event of an emergency. They also stand out for their careers of service to the nation and the community. They are not the only veterans serving in the Cobb Schools Police Department. Close to 33 percent of the district police officers are veterans.
“It is a distinct advantage for any organization to hire veterans because they have been tested, they have served, and they understand [how to be] a member of a team. From the perspective of a veteran, I understand the value of teamwork,” Officer Bradford added.
As Officer Bradford demonstrates every day, the military builds leaders and Cobb Schools is proud to have so many veterans, like Officer Bradford and Officer Saxton, as part of the district’s team.
When you see veterans around Cobb, thank them for their service. And, for the students who spot Officer Bradford, toss him a high five too.