Cops and Districts Talk Safety in New Jersey

by Kevin Pentón, Asbury Park Press,  4/13/13

SPRING LAKE, NJ — Simply hiring someone armed with a gun likely won’t be enough to deter a school shooting, an expert on the subject told more than 100 education and law enforcement officials on Friday.

Should districts go the route of armed guards in schools, officials should ensure those coming in to work in those roles have the demeanor and the training to interact with students, the best resource for knowing potential problems, said the expert, John More, during a seminar organized by the Monmouth County Police Chiefs Association.

“It’s a waste of time unless there’s a relationship,” said More, who believes proper training for staffers trumps security systems. “It’s not about building the moat.”

The association organized the seminar to help school and police officials learn more about how they can work together to ensure students’ safety, said its president, Darryl G. Breckenridge.

“It’s good to have a police presence in the schools,” said Breckenridge, Fair Haven’s police chief. “There’s not one answer to dealing with school violence. You have to be prepared as best as you can.”

When shootings occur, attention often focuses on the actions of teachers and administrators, More said.

Districts need to pay more attention to the responsibilities of maintenance and cafeteria workers, More said. They often know the buildings better than most and may be able to glean information on potential threats better than teachers, with whom students may feel less comfortable speaking openly, he said.

“A school is not a building,” More said. “It’s a neighborhood full of innocent people.”

Most districts and police departments in Monmouth County already work well together, sharing information and meeting regularly, Sheriff Shaun Golden said.

“Tactics are always changing, unfortunately from the lessons learned from other tragedies,” Golden said.

School and police administrators need to continue their work on lessening the possibility of shootings, or on at least minimizing their impact, despite knowing there ultimately may be little that can be done to stop a suicidal armed person from harming others, More said.

“We know it’s going to continue,” More said. “We know it’s going to get worse.”