Police coordinate with district in wake of school shooting

By Michal Ruprecht, Abi Murray, and Cairington Stahl

As junior Maria DiSanto walked the halls on Thursday, Feb. 15, one day after the shooting in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, she felt a usual sense of safety at the sight of security guards. At the same time however, she felt as though the guards were only there as a result of the previous day’s events.

“I’ve always felt very safe at North. It is scary knowing what could happen, but I feel security at North, and it is very strong,” she said.

DiSanto also saw police officers from the Grosse Pointe Woods Police Department. In a district-wide attempt to promote positive relations between the police and students, administration has invited local police to stop by the schools this year.

Math teacher Julie Pappas said that the police presence adds more security and even more officers would be beneficial.

“I feel like there’s good communication between the school and the police department,” Pappas said. “I think it would actually reduce the amount of other issues that we might have.”

Since the security guards at North aren’t armed, they don’t go through extensive training. Police, however, prepare and train for active shooter situations, according to Detroit Police Department Sergeant Otha Craighead. Craighead added that teachers should also be familiar with police procedures so they can teach students what to expect.

Some law enforcement, including the Grosse Pointe Woods Police Department, have a Special Weapons and Tactics Team trained in depth for emergencies like an active shooter incident. Westland Police Department police officer David Archambeau said the team goes over school and building layouts. They also reenact active shooter incidents using simunitions, a more realistic version of a paintball gun.

Although officers are in charge of protecting students, they need them to alert administrators and police about suspicious behavior. Pappas said classroom phones have an emergency number to the district administrative building that alerts police.

Because GPPD doesn’t have staff specifically assigned to the schools, Archambeau said a school resource officer could help manage activity and monitor criminal cases. Grosse Pointe Public Safety directors Dan Jensen and John Kosanke agree and said GPPSS should hire a resource officer, Grosse Pointe News reported.

Archambeau said that it’s also important to have a social media presence to investigate suspicious behavior online. He said schools will focus more on security following the incident in Parkland.

“I think that they’ll move more funding to school safety,” Archambeau said. “My opinion is that if you restrict certain weapons, then a mass shooter will find another way to do it. Whether it be guns or anything, you always have to be prepared.”

Although local police prepare for active shooter situations, DiSanto said that no amount of practice or simulation can prepare students or teachers for real-life emergencies. She said knowing the best place to be in the classroom and remembering the procedures can help. So can looking at how police handle a situation and helping them protect us.

“It’s really important for every kid to know what to do in that situation,” DiSanto said. “Because things can get hectic when there’s screaming or gunshots.”