Barrington Police cruisers were posted outside local schools Monday morning in what Chief John LaCross described as a show of support for local educators, children and their families.
“We just want school staff and faculty to know that as first responders, we feel the sadness for what happened in Connecticut,” Chief LaCross said. He added police were likely to spend a bit more time than normal at Barrington schools this week.
“We want to be out there, to be visible, to reassure them that we are there, we are their protectors.”
Monday was the first day back to school for teachers and students following last Friday’s horrific shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. The tragedy left 20 children dead along with six school officials, including teachers, the principal and a school psychologist.
Chief LaCross said officers were not dispatched to schools last week because the incident appeared to be isolated to Connecticut and as of Monday morning, no threats had been made relating to local schools.
However, the chief did meet with Barrington School Superintendent Michael Messore and Town Manager Peter DeAngelis on Friday to discuss local preparedness. The three officials were set to meet again this week.
The chief said each school has a plan for going into lockdown, and police have actually trained inside local schools for such an incident. A member of the Rhode Island State Police also recently met with Barrington school principals to talk about procedures for such an emergency, and Chief LaCross said police trained at Barrington High School last year in a simulation that featured everything from strobe lights to fog machines and live actors.
“It was pretty intense,” Chief LaCross said.
“You can never train enough for these types of situations.”
The police also had a chance to test their readiness for a school emergency last year when a bomb threat was called in at Primrose Hill School. Chief LaCross praised his department’s response to this incident, citing timeliness and his officers’ ability to organize and work with other officials, such as the fire department and state fire marshal.
Should police ever be called to a local school for this type of situation or any other emergency in the future, Chief LaCross said he expects the response to be rapid. A cruiser leaving the police station can reach most local schools in a minute or less, Chief LaCross said, and officers are routinely on post in outlying areas such as Sowams and Nayatt roads.
The timing of last week’s shooting coincides with what can be one of the busiest weeks of the year for schools. Winter break starts next Monday and the days leading up to vacation can often bring holiday festivities or other events that bring more adults than usual into a school setting.
Chief LaCross said it’s up to school administration to deal with visitors to the buildings, though school safety policies are reviewed with the police department.
Chief LaCross also said that while he has supported instituting a school resource officer since coming to Barrington, he doesn’t believe such a tool would have prevented an elementary school shooting. The chief said most resource officers are located either at the middle or high school levels.