As the school safety debate continues, parents, teachers and law enforcement are left watching the endless fight for “solutions” and wondering, “How is this helping keep our kids safe right now?” In a letter to members of the Jordan (MN) school board, Jordan Police Department Chief Bob Malz states, “A national debate ensues on what increased (if any) level of security is needed in our schools, what types of firearms should be banned, and how to predict which individuals with mental illness in our community will commit mass murder.” He wrote this letter soon after the tragedy in Newtown when once again the sanctity of our centers of education, a place where we are required to send our children, was shattered by violence. Communities sat in stunned silence as they mulled over the fact that once again someone, anyone, everyone had failed to protect the lives of innocent children grouped together in a perfect location to slaughter dozens with virtually no way to protect themselves. In response, Malz wrote, “These attacks have been going on for years and still no one has provided any hope of relief.” Not satisfied with sitting around waiting for a national solution, he set in motion several changes. “Sometimes the best answers come when we stop listening to everyone else and take it upon ourselves to make common sense decisions based on what is right for the safety of our children in our own community,” he explains. “It’s time for a change.”
Officers at School
The first change Malz implemented in the town of 5,800 was to work with the local school district, make some structural changes to the school buildings and move officers inside. Malz knew whatever changes he made could not be “budget busters” and they needed to “think outside the box and utilize our current resources to their fullest.” After all appropriate approvals, including the school superintendant, school principals, school counselors, the City Administrators Office and the City Council, modifications to bring the officers into Jordan High School (JHS), Jordan Middle School (JMS) and Jordan Elementary School (JES) began. The officers’ offices all look out at the main entrance to each of the schools so officers can see who is coming and going. The chief himself is housed at JHS. All the officers have administrative functions allowing them to easily complete their duties at the school. Their presence, as well as, the patrol car in the parking lot has a deterrent effect on any would-be attacker, reduces response time if an incident were to occur and increases the feelings of safety for students, staff and parents. “Three statistics weighed heavily when I debated proposing this plan,” Malz states in an interview. “There has never been a school shooting initiated when an armed police officer has been present. Most school shootings are over in three to five minutes. Almost all school shooting events ended before there was law enforcement intervention.”
Everyone is pleased with the arrangement. “I was very fortunate to be able to work with several individuals in key positions that were able to make the safety of the children in our community their number one priority,” Malz says. “We have just finished the implementation stage. Now comes evaluation. We will need time to ascertain what is effective and what needs to be tweaked or eliminated.” In the end, the school district ended up covering all the costs associated with the change.
Assessing School Threats