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Winter Park / Maitland Observer Thursday, Mar. 8, 2018 8 months ago

Winter Park PD creates plan to address school shootings

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Led by Chief Michael Deal, the department has taken to steps to review and develop a new plan that it hopes will help curb future issues regarding violence in schools.
by: Troy Herring Sports Editor

Following the mass shooting at Stonemason Douglas High School in South Florida, Winter Park Police Department, under the leadership of Chief Michael Deal, is looking to take progressive action.

In an announcement Feb. 28, Deal detailed plans to ensure an event like the one in Parkland doesn’t occur in Winter Park.

“Everybody in the country — especially parents who have kids going to schools — are very concerned, and me too,” Deal said. “Part of our job is to not only deal with crime and things like that, but the fear that our residents have every day.”

To begin, the department will be placing a full-time officer in both Brookshire and Lakemont elementary schools. Before, the department has had one officer divide their time between the two schools. 

Deal also said the department will keep its two currently assigned officers at both Winter Park High School and the Winter Park High School Ninth Grade Center.

“People really want to see a police officer in their schools full-time — when they drop them off they feel a lot better when they see a police officer there,” Deal said. “So that was the main objective — to provide better security for the schools, and to hopefully keep somebody from coming in their who feels like their is no one there to stop them, and also to help the parents deal with the concern.” 

The next step is a complete review of the department’s Standard Operating Procedures regarding its response to an active shooter situation.

“Everybody in the country — especially parents who have kids going to schools — are very concerned, and me too,” Deal said. “Part of our job is to not only deal with crime and things like that, but the fear that our residents have every day.”

Although the procedures were developed after the shooting at Columbine High School in 1999, Deal said the policy was still sound, but it never hurts to examine and better develop plans of action.

One of the main sections addressed in the policy is in regards to how first officers on scene are supposed to act. 

“The first officer who arrives on scene has to make some decisions based on what is going on — because he or she is there,” Deal said. “If nobody has been shot and there is no active shooting at the time, then you have the ability to formulate a plan with a team and go in and do a search. 

“If you get there and you’ve got someone who is shooting, and you can hear the shots, then you can’t wait for your backup — your main objective is to go in and eliminate the threat,” he said. 

To help prepare officers for such circumstances, the department will be conducting refresher training in the next few weeks. Deal said the department had not done any active shooter training in the last several years.

“We’ll go over different scenarios and how to respond — when this happens then you do this, and if this is going on, you do this,” Deal said. “So it is basically scenario-based training — not just reading the policy but actually putting people in situations and training on how they should react.”

With all these steps being put into place to better protect students, the department also is holding meetings over the next few weeks with principals from each school in the city as a means of discussing their plans.

It’s a policy Deal hopes will help make Winter Park schools as safe as possible.

“We already have a good relationship with the principals, so the key thing here is making sure we are all on the same page in how we are going to address threats or students who are having issues,” he said. “Regardless of what it is, we just want to be on the same page. If there are threats, we need to be involved, and we need to be able to effectively deal with those things.”

Troy Herring is the sports editor at the West Orange Times and Windermere Observer. He is a graduate of the University of Mount Olive (BS '12) and the University of Alabama (MA '16)....

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