by Caren Caterina, The Coast Star, 4/18/13
SPRING LAKE, NJ — When it comes to protecting children, police and school officials will go through great lengths to keep them safe.
Last Friday, the Monmouth County Police Chiefs Association [MCPCA] held a training seminar on legal strategies for dealing with potential school violence.
The two-hour method and strategy session, which was held at The Breakers on the Ocean, here, was given by John “Chip” More, the president and CEO of Response Law, a Neptune City-based company that provides legal training for police, schools, fire and EMS agencies.
Mr. More presented strategic legal techniques to be applied by school and police personnel related directly to preparing for, responding to and recovering from violent incidents in schools.
TRAINING FOR POLICE, SCHOOLS
Brielle Police Chief Michael Palmer, who serves as chairman of training issues and special projects for the MCPCA, said the MCPCA always looks to partner with other organizations, such as with schools, in order to train together and get a better understanding of what each does.
Chief Palmer said this particular training helped to benefit both police and school officials.
“That way, they can work together in their respective communities,” Chief Palmer said.
The training was well-attended by school administrative personnel as well as numerous police officers and command staff.
Roughly 130 people attended the event from about 47 municipalities in Monmouth County, including Avon, Brielle, Wall, Manasquan, Spring Lake Heights, Spring Lake and Sea Girt, Chief Palmer said.
“We have had this similar training with Mr. More,” Chief Palmer said. “We felt it would be good to revisit it again.”
Fair Haven Police Chief Darryl Breckenridge, who is president of MCPCA, said last Friday’s event helped to bring educators and law enforcement together “so we are on the same page in case of a violent crisis affecting one of our schools and what to do in case of emergencies.”
This presentation, Chief Breckenridge said, focused primarily on legal aspects and what educators can do legally to protect their children.
“We do it to have a networking system and build a good rapport,” Chief Breckenridge said. “Most of us do have a good rapport with our school districts.”
Many of the police officers in Monmouth County attend their respective schools’ lockdowns and fire drills “to make sure we are doing everything we can to protect our children,” Chief Breckenridge added.
Mr. More said in this training seminar he wanted to give school administrators and police a tool kit, so to speak, that they could walk away with on how to prepare for school violence.
The training focused on legal strategies that can be utilized to reduce the risk of school violence, and, how to be prepared to deal with it legally after the fact, if it occurs, he said.
“We also included the role of police and their interaction with the school administration on how to work together as a team,” Mr. More said.
“Our expertise focuses on filling the gap between what the law says, what policies and standard operating procedures allow for, and what the rights of school and police personnel are in carrying out their daily operations,” said Mr. More.
Mr. More said he was heartened by the size of the audience “and the passion these good folks demonstrated for the safety of school staff and students.”
Mr. More covered a wide variety of scenario-based techniques embracing everything from information sharing, protective search policies, building a threat assessment team, and cultivating the critical relationship between school and police personnel.
“Obviously, school safety is number one on the minds of educators and law enforcement but the reality is they have so many other things to deal with that they are constantly battling with time constraints. Our job is to make their life easier with litigation-tested methods that are aimed at reducing the risk of violence and providing legal insulation at the same time,” Mr. More said.
Mr. More said there was a strong showing by police and school administrators, noting the camaraderie between the two in Monmouth County is “very strong.”
“They are very proactive in that area,” Mr. More said.
In addition to allowing questions from attendees, Mr. More said the interactive training also presented guests with a tabletop exercise “to see how they should work and what they should be thinking about.”
“It got a great response and we hope to do more of these in the future,” Mr. More said.
Brielle Elementary School [BES] Superintendent Christine Carlson, who attended the seminar with school guidance counselor Beth O’Reilly, said Mr. More was an excellent presenter.
Brielle Police officials, including Sgt. Michael Mechler and Lt. Thomas Krueger, were also in attendance.
Mrs. Carlson said the police and BES community have a well-established relationship.
The police, she said, are in the school building on a daily basis, are involved in every single drill for lockdowns and fires and “we are always talking about what we can do better in our school.”
“We walked away [from the training seminar] saying that we are fortunate because not all schools have that police and school partnership,” Mrs. Carlson said. “I have police in here every day. They walk every hallway, they talk to the children and staff, and everyone is comfortable with their presence.”
Mrs. Carlson said she took away from the training a lot of good information, including that, “We have to continuously make a good faith effort to reduce risk in the school.”
“We also have to recognize we may fail,” she added.
There are ways to reduce risks, she said, such as checking badges of visitors and being aware of one’s surroundings “and sometimes thinking outside of the box.”
Mrs. Carlson said as schools are soft targets, they possess risk because of the vulnerability to outsiders, to “bad people.”
BES, for example, is adding to their already tightened security system with additional cameras, and a buzzer system from the outside of the building, in order to become more vigilant in keeping their children and staff safe from harm.
Mrs. Carlson said she enjoyed the training, as Mr. More is a nationally, well-known speaker on school security.
“He does it with a great deal of experience, but he also does it with humor to make us realize things we have to know as professionals,” Mrs. Carlson said. “He has a wonderful way of talking to administrators and police. He added humor but sent a message home.”