With reports of mass shootings becoming all too frequent, local law enforcement officials gathered at California University of Pennsylvania this week to learn how to best coordinate a response if the worst comes to pass.
The school is hosting a School Shooting Prevention Leadership Forum that began Wednesday and will wrap up today. The forum was put together by the FBI National Academy Associates (FBINAA) and the School Safety Advocacy Council (SSAC).
“The audience is mostly law enforcement for this program,” said John Kennedy, the director of training and education for the FBINAA. “We do have school administrators as well. We also have other public safety officials here too, such as fire and EMS.”
There were about 90 participants in the program, which had a $300 registration fee. Kennedy said the main goals of the program were to provide the attendees with the “knowledge, skills and resources” necessary to make their schools and communities more secure, and to also be able to put together response plans in conjunction with school administrators and other law enforcement agencies.
“We’ll take a look at what’s happened in the past, some of the lessons learned and then hopefully be able to give the participants enough information to go back to their communities to start developing response plans within their schools,” Kennedy said.
Among the speakers is retired officer Tony Pustizzi. Pustizzi was the chief of the Coral Springs Police Department and responded to the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.
In the wake of the the February 2018 shooting that left 17 dead, local officials came under scrutiny for their slow response. Sheriff Scott Israel was ultimately removed from his post, and four deputies were fired.
“What happened in some of the school shootings, the response plans weren’t coordinated with local police, county police, school resource officers (and) school administrators,” Kennedy said.
Ken Truver, a member for the FBINAA’s executive board and the Castle Shannon chief of police, said that when it comes to cooperation among different departments, Western Pennsylvania is among the best in the country.
“In Western Pennsylvania, we’re a model for the rest of the nation in terms of collaboration for putting on training and communication among law enforcement officials at all levels of government,” Truver said.
Truver added that the Western Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association, Allegheny County Chiefs of Police Association and the local chapter of the FBINAA have worked together for several years to organize training.
“We collaborate. We know each other. We train together. ... That relationship is envied by other places in the nation,” Truver said.
While the forum was specifically geared toward law enforcement, Kennedy and Truver also had advice for students in the event they notice any threats or concerning behavior on social media: If you see something, say something.
“There’s an interesting statistic – 81% of the school shootings, someone had prior knowledge of the attacker’s plan, and that is critical. Somebody was not sharing that information,” Kennedy said. “Report it to the campus police, and let the professionals investigate it to see if it is a credible threat.”
California University of Pennsylvania offers ALICE (Alert, Lockdown Inform, Counter, Evacuate) training to students, faculty and staff so they can be prepared in an active shooter situation.