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April 5, 2013

Mayor announces school safety program

Fouts says nine-step program will cover 43 schools in Warren

By Brian Louwers and Maria Allard
C & G Staff Writers

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Mayor Jim Fouts said he has directed the Warren Police Department to implement a nine-step program designed to improve school safety in 43 buildings.

WARREN — Citing a need to be “proactive and not reactive” in the wake of December’s school shooting in Newtown, Conn., Mayor Jim Fouts said the Warren Police Department has begun a nine-step school safety program affecting 43 buildings.

“For the first time, we’re going to have a Police Department where every officer will be like a mini SWAT team,” Fouts said last week. “They will also have preparation unlike any police department before.”

Fouts said the program’s steps include uniformed officers making daily school stops that would familiarize police with building staff members and facilities.

He said all Warren officers would complete a 16-week specialized training program for dealing with active shooter situations and rapid response techniques by mid-April.

The Warren Police Department has also obtained floor plans for all of Warren’s schools. The plans remain stored in the truck used by the department’s Special Response Team, along with master keys and swipe cards for a number of schools.

Other steps included plans to work with 15 schools that have accepted invitations to review emergency procedures; police training at a number of buildings to simulate school-specific environments; and participation by Warren Fire Department medics in the active shooter training program.

“Now we’ll be able to go in immediately and be fully prepared,” said Fouts, a retired high school teacher who worked in the Warren Consolidated School District, one of five public school districts covering the city of Warren. “I’m really proud of this. I think it’s a great program. I just don’t think any other city has anything like this.”

The city’s initiative will complement in-house steps to examine and enhance school safety in Warren schools.

The news of Sandy Hook was “extremely devastating,” Warren Woods Public Schools Superintendent Stacey Denewith-Fici said. “Safety is your top priority.”

News of the tragedy prompted local school officials to reflect on building safety measures and to have “everything in place you need to have in place,” Denewith-Fici said.

One task WWPS officials completed was securing all the school buildings, either with a buzzer system or a locked secure entryway. The district’s high school and middle school also have security guards on site.

Officials in other school districts also installed additional safety measures. The subject of school safety comes up often, and school officials have repeatedly said safety procedures are always being looked at.

Warren Consolidated Superintendent Robert Livernois, for instance, sent a letter dated Feb. 15 to parents about a plan with Warren, Sterling Heights and Troy that allow those police departments to make “random” and “routine” visits to the schools. The plan was the result of recent assessment by the police departments of the schools.

“In the coming weeks, it will not be uncommon to see police cruisers at our schools, but this does not mean there is a crisis but rather a friendly visit from our community partners in law enforcement,” the letter stated. “If a crisis were to develop in our schools, you will be informed appropriately.”

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Brian Louwers at brianlouwers@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1089.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Maria Allard at allard@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1045.