City police chief devises new school shooting plan
By Jefferson Weaver, The News Reporter
When he was hired by the city, one of the first things Whiteville Chief of Police Jeff Rosier did was conduct an exercise on dealing with a school shooting.
After Thursday’s attack killed 17 students and teachers at a Florida high school, Rosier said he hopes to have a similar exercise in the near future.
“I put together a table top exercise for an active shooter situation at Edgewood Elementary,” he said. “Area law enforcement, school officials, and emergency management officials from the city, county and hospital attended.”
“I made contact with the Superintendent (Kenny Garland) and we are going to put together another tabletop exercise to go over all the protocols that are now in place and how to refresh officers in this immediate area and school staff on active shooter response.”
While he has not personally dealt with an actual live shooter situation, Rosier said the scenario became familiar when he was still with the Baltimore County Police in Maryland.
“As the Training Commander, I supervised a massive active shooter training exercise at a closed school and used actors to create the scenario,” he said. “Then we had two different precincts respond to the incident and we videotaped it so we could use it for training purposes.”
Any event on the magnitude of the Florida incident will require multiple responses from various agencies in the city and county, Rosier said.
School resource officers (SROs) are present at the middle and high schools in Whiteville, and the police also work with schools and the Board of Education to improve safety on all four campuses.
“I worked with the superintendent on his safety protocols and the implementation of those procedures,” Rosier said. “SROs and officers working overtime help provide security at sporting events.
Regular school safety drills are run by the schools and don’t need a police presence to practice those protocols. We are also going to walk each campus with the superintendent and principals to discuss procedures in place and any alternative measures to maintain campus security.
“I can tell you that Mr. Garland and his staff have in place very good action plans for school safety.”
Whiteville Police will continue to update their standard operating procedures in dealing with school shooters, Rosier said. When new tactics and strategies evolve, officers need to know about improvements, and how to use them.
“Once again you can never train too much,” he said.
Rosier said school safety begins long before a student enters the classroom doors.
“Parents must have good communication with their children,” he said. “Sharing any suspicious information or actions told to them by their children needs to be relayed to law enforcement.”
Parents also need to be willing to communicate with both police and school officials, Rosier said.
“Know your school’s safety protocols and know what to do, where to go, and when to do it should an incident occur at your child’s school. Actively communicate with your children. Observing and listening are keys. Do not use social media to ask questions or clarify rumors, — notify law enforcement or school officials first to investigate any suspicious activity.”
Security for schools is a top priority for all law enforcement, Rosier said, and a task that never ends.
“It’s a matter of making sure these measures are known by and reinforced with school staff, law enforcement and area emergency management. Hopefully they will never have to be used.”