Police chiefs in Minnesota are closely involved with their school administrators when it comes to keeping schools safe.
Plymouth Police Chief Mike Goldstein, president of the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association, said he is confident his members are always upgrading and coordinating their plans to keep students safe.
The question of police involvement in local schools has arisen since the Feb. 14 shooting of 17 students and staff at a high school in Parkland, Florida.
Broward County Public School Superintendent Robert Runcie has told reporters that two police cars typically were on the campus at the high school on a daily basis. One deputy, however, did not enter the school on the day of the shooting because he said he believed the shots were coming from outside the school.
At schools in Plymouth, Minnesota, there are two armed officers at each high school and one at the middle schools. Officers in the DARE program are involved in the elementary schools.
In Bloomington’s school district there is one armed officer in each of the two high schools and one for the three middle schools.
Anoka-Hennepin, which is the largest school district in Minnesota, has 13 police-liaison officers assigned to the five senior high schools, six middle schools, River Trails Learning Center and a regional alternative school.
Jim Skelly, the director of communications for Anoka-Hennepin, said the district actually has an emergency management school safety coordinator who meets monthly with law enforcement agencies to go over the latest strategies.
Independent School District 728, serving the communities of Elk River, Zimmerman, Otsego and Rogers, has three high schools. The Elk River Police Department has three juvenile detectives assigned to Elk River High School, Salk and VandenBerge.
Rogers High School has two police officers assigned to secondary schools in Rogers and Zimmerman Middle/High School has a Sherbrne county deputy who is at the school.
As for a situation when there are shots heard within a school, officers are trained to enter the school immediately, locate and neutralize any threat that could end with a killing, said Bloomington Police Deputy Chief Mike Hartley.
In Hennepin County, every law enforcement agency follows that same plan, except for Minneapolis, which has its own protocol, Goldstein said.
“I am proud of our relationship with the school officials. And we are not different than other communities,” Goldstein said.
“We have good plans in place, we share resources, and there is not a time when we are not engaged locally,” he said.
Goldstein said his officers work closely with school officials in determining whether a student could be a threat.
“This has happened more than once,” said Goldstein.
Officers have access to the latest training through the Minnesota School Safety Center, county sheriffs and networking with other police chiefs, Goldstein said.
For now the police association does not have plans to develop a one-size-fits-all school safety game plan for its members because chiefs have access to other resources to improve their safety plans.
The association does favor more funding for school safety, a “hardening of the target” and enhanced security measures. — Don Heinzman is a columnist for ECM Publishers.