POLICE Magazine Supplements

Special Report 2018

Magazine for police and law enforcement

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6 SPECIAL REPORT: KEEPING SCHOOLS SAFE works for the police but is also a school "employee" or partner. To prevent confu- sion, there must be clear work directions. Otherwise the work of the SRO can be very difficult because the officer cannot please two separate bosses. In my department, SRO selection is made after an application process with interviews and presentations by the ap- plicants to a panel composed of police command staff and school leadership. is emphasizes that selecting the SRO is a joint decision. It is easy for the police to say, "I want a 'tactical officer' at the school in case of an ac- tive shooter attack," but the school desires an officer who will teach their staff, the par- ents of their students, and the students themselves in safety topics. Finding an officer who can fill both roles is a tall or- der, but it is achievable. One of the biggest obstacles in placing SROs is financing of the program, who is paying the freight. In my case, half of the SRO's salary and benefit package is covered by the school district, and the remaining amount is divided by the lo- cal municipalities based on the percent- age of their residential students within the district. Summer Vacation A common obstacle to a positive rela- tionship between the school administra- tors and local police is determining the SROs' assignments. For example, many will wonder about what the SROs will do during the summer months when schools are not in session. is is when the SROs have unencumbered time to plan, train, and address larger time-con- suming projects. For instance, all school floorplans should be copied and shared with local police, tactical teams, fire, and EMS partners. e summer vacation months are also a great time for the SROs to host tabletop exercises and review joint response plans such as hosting walk-throughs with all agencies so they will be familiar with the building should the need arise for their that must be thoroughly explained to all employees of the school is the mandated reporting laws for child protection and sexual abuse. On the Same Page A major concern for both police and schools is handling the media. If both parties issue a media statement with conflicting statements, expect a lot of trouble with the press. Reporters love to follow up on inconsistencies. To prevent this, there needs to be collaboration between the school district and police spokespeople so that they are on the same page. Share and co-approve statements. We do not want to create a discon- nect for the media to feed on. Within your daily dialogue, your school spokesperson and your police public information officer probably use words and phrases that may be contrary to the other's vernacular; iron these words out. is starts with approval of press releases and statements before they are released. Other partner relationships that need to be defined are the outside social as- sistance agencies for the students and their families. How many prior student shooters have been suffering from men- tal health issues? If the SRO can help a youth in distress to seek help and treat- ment, this is a benefit for that youth and the school. Relationships with the school nurse and other medical and/or mental health professionals, such as addiction specialists, external health providers, and social services professionals, will be key in making this happen. A well-timed referral may save many lives. Building relationships between schools and police is an art, and it must be con- stantly worked on by both sides. is is hard work but the ultimate reward is in the enhanced security of our schools. H William L. "Bill" Harvey is the chief of the Ephrata (PA) Police Department. He re- tired from the Savannah (GA) Police De- partment where he worked assignments in training, patrol, and CID. response. All fire companies work on their pre-plans for alarms and responses to infrequent but high-risk events. Police should do the same. One very important element that needs to be part of preplanning and exercises is to practice and refine Uni- fied Command concepts. is is spoken about but rarely practiced with school leadership. Practice now, train for the worst day. In planning for the ultimate bad day, your program needs to review pre-estab- lished relationships with adjoining agen- cies. Some states require memorandums of understanding (MOUs) or mutual aid agreements (MAAs). is is a great time to review and refine your relationships with surrounding public safety agencies and the schools. e new school year brings chang- es in contact lists—update and share within appropriate circles. ese may seem administrative and mundane but are extremely important in maintain- ing connectivity between police and the schools. e weeks just before school starts is a good time for SROs to train all of the new staff—including administra- tors, teachers, cafeteria workers, cus- todians, office workers, and others—in school safety. Do not forget to forge a strong relationship with the transporta- tion side of the house. is includes bus drivers and crossing guards. One area Relationships SROs should forge relationships with all school staff as well as crossing guards and bus drivers. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

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