Trying to wrap my head around the devastating murder of innocents in Connecticut has been especially difficult during this season of what is supposed to be a loving, sharing and giving time of year. Going to Troy High school this month and enjoying the band, orchestra and choir concerts and seeing the talented students and dedicated teachers brings the loss into sharp relief. The lives of Newtown 6 year olds that will never be.
While the country, the White House and school districts consider how to make our citizens and children safer, I hope that they will consider all issues that create these tragedies. Troy Police Chief Mayer spoke at the council meeting the other night about how the TPD is working with the Troy School District to have additional safety measures in place. That is reassuring.
But having worked in the Troy High School main office briefly and in Niles High School, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of the presence of a police liaison officer. The in-school officers in the high schools were dropped in down economic times. However, there are some things that are just worth whatever it costs. This is one of them.
The officers are incredible. They have the pulse of what is going on in and out of the school setting. They are on top of potential danger and trained in dealing with stressful, life threatening situations. While I was at THS, the officer helped to save the life of a parent who we determined over the phone might be having a heart attack in his home. I was so grateful that the officer was in the school at the moment I took that call and was able to get help for the parent and save him. It was awe-inspiring.
Then there was the incident when a caller threatened a Troy elementary school over the phone and said a gunman was in the building. The Troy Police department secured the school in minutes and tracked the caller down in a matter of hours and arrested the person. This is excellent police work. It is necessary to our sense of security.
How do we find a way to make the liaison officers a part of our schools again? I trust that there will be all versions of safety protocols for schools, parents and visitors, even greater than there are today. City government will discuss police staffing levels and costs in budget sessions. As a parent I ask what price can we put on our children’s and our family’s safety?
These police liaison officers presence offer a comfort to students in today’s scary times (even thought they may not admit it) and is surely a comfort to staff. Campus aides perform a function in the building, certainly. But there is no substitute for a police officer. I do not want to debate gun control here. Suffice to say that if someone is going to be armed in a school, my money is on the trained professional from the Troy Police Department. I hope the school district can find a way to put them back in the schools where they play a vital role in the safety of our school communities.