James Mendrick’s Comprehensive Plan to Combat School Shootings
The first tier to school safety.
My number one priority is the safety of our children. No matter what side of the debate one is on over gun control, we have to accept that guns exist in our society. When guns can be created by computers with a 3D printer, we must be prepared for the worst and must have the best ability to stop the threat. Just YouTube “3D printer guns” and you’ll see exactly what we’re facing.
In the police culture, school assignments have typically been considered to be fairly easy. That’s certainly not the case anymore. Now, we need highly trained and disciplined officers within our school environments. There is no one solution to fix this. There are several moving parts that need to work together cohesively.
First, the police need to partner with local schools and be much more involved; we need to harden the targets. Bulletproof glass would be a good start and the ability to lockdown doors electronically. Cameras should be in place that can be turned on and monitored during emergencies and localized public announcement systems could be utilized to direct children and teachers away from a threat and into controlled safe zones.
This should all be run through a locked down administration office. The technology in this office should have the ability to be patched into local law enforcement dispatch centers. Then, trained dispatch personnel could utilize the schools PA system, cameras and door lockdowns to direct civilian movement to safe zones while simultaneously giving direction and suspect movements to the school officer so they can intervene. We currently use earpieces to hear information from our dispatch centers so this would be like having a voice in their ear telling them where the threat is and what that threat is doing. This will give the officer strategic knowledge so he/she can act quickly. This would have been a great help during the recent Florida incident. A second dispatcher would be working in tandem with the other dispatcher in the same room that is orchestrating movement of innocents away from the situation. The threat is now being aggressed and teachers and children are being brought to safety at the same time. Keeping floor plans of schools at dispatch centers will enhance all of this.
The school liaison officer should be trained in rapid deployment. This is training that teaches a police officer how to properly aggress and stop an active shooter or threat. This human strategy combined with technology will give law enforcement the very best chance to reduce or eliminate any loss of life.
The second tier to this problem revolves around detection, identification and intervention.
This evolved school liaison officer must also have training in sociology related fields. They need to be trained to identify the symptoms of mental illness or developmental disorders. Another critical area of training is bullying and cyber bullying. Bullying is a consistent reason given by active shooters as the cause of their actions. If we know many acts of violence in schools stem from mental health issues relating to treatment or perceived treatment within the school environment or social circles, we, as law enforcement, have an obligation to be more involved in this environment. All of this training currently exists within law enforcement, but for school officers, it should be mandatory to have training in all of these aspects.
If the school liaison officer is properly doing their job and interacting with the students daily, it becomes pretty easy to identify who the outcasts are. These are the children who need help and assistance before it goes too far. Their families and teachers need to be recruited into this process to help in a way that doesn’t embarrass the student.
If we start detecting these behaviors ahead of time, we have the opportunity to stop many of these incidents before they happen. The school authorities and officers in conjunction with family members need to have, at their fingertips, access to counselors, clinicians, psychologists or any other service to provide the help required based on the symptoms a student may display.
Law enforcement needs to change its traditional responsibilities toward a more involved role within the school environment. We need to emphasize communication between law enforcement, the students, the teachers, families and community services. This new school liaison officer will have a great opportunity for prevention and the training required to stop a deadly threat. These are our children and we need to change the way we do things if we truly want them to be safe. Read more about my platform.