NJCOPS BACK TO SCHOOL SEPTEMBER 2013 September 2013, the end of the summer season, back to work, end of vacations and back to school; for many police departments that means back to traffic posts, more traffic congestion, angry parents at drop off zones and more targets for bad guys. Now that school is back in session, it is time to re-examine and refocus on your department’s school safety policies and active shooter programs. It is time to set up meetings with school administrators and collaborate with them about an effective policy that includes familiarization, training and review of current policies. New Jersey guidelines say that schools must have a safety plan in place for every school. Do they? Do you know the plan? Coordination between school boards, school administrators and school employees is essential…you should know them and they should know you. A good police officer is aware of their surroundings. Become more familiar with the schools in your area. Don’t just leave it to the School Resource Officer, (SRO), because if and when that call comes in, everyone is going. Be familiar with the grounds of the school, the layout and design, walk the grounds and the hallways, get to know the principal, teachers and the kids and lastly know the plan. This is your area; no one should know it better than you! As a police officer your training should never stop. Ensure that your department has an active shooter program and is conducting training in the schools. Be sure that the training focuses on coordinated efforts between the school, your department and surrounding departments. Active shooter drills are extremely effective for not only police officers, but also for teachers and administrators so they can see firsthand the chaos and confusion in these situations. Using force on force drills such as simunitions or airsoft weapons are also a great tool for police officers. The force on force scenarios can serve as a major wakeup call for some officers when they leave training after getting hit several times. After any type of training it is always good to take some time and review the current policies and procedures that are in place. These drills can show the need to upgrade department radios and other equipment such as weapons, rifles, shields, vehicles and other tactical equipment…like BUGGs! It is also important to review the school’s policy after any type of training event. Through coordination and collaboration, school administrators and teachers can be educated on the differences between lock down, shelter in place and evacuation protocols. As a parent we send our kids off to school with a reasonable expectation that they will be safe. Their safety starts with you! Remember, DENIAL is the enemy.