Niles Police To Test Schools' Safety
It's voluntary for schools, but police will send a role-player into schools to try to breach their security and enter the building. They'll use what they learn to improve schools' defenses.
After the Newtown shootings and yesterday's incident in which a student brought a rifle into a California school and shot another student, parents are jittery about school security.
The Niles Police Department is responding with a school safety audit, which Chief Dean Strzelecki said can include a type of drill in which the department sends an actor to schools to see if he can find a way to breach their security measures and enter the building. The actor is not armed.
"We'll offer our assistance (to schools) to look over the plans--it's their plan, but we might offer some suggestions," he said. It's up to schools whether or not they want to take part.
Regarding the exercise of sending the actor to try to breach security, he said the actor would try to find an open door somewhere, enter and not check in at the office. When someone from the school approaches the actor, that signals the end of the exercise.
Police don't tell schools when the actor is coming, so there's a factor of surprise.
When police review the exercise with school officials, they walk around the school and look at ways unwanted intruders can be kept out. That might include adding security cameras in certain places.
Strzelecki said sometimes glass on a door or other surface can be replaced with stronger materials, but that contains a cost factor the school districts have to consider.
When asked whether schools should consider installing metal detectors, hiring private security or even arming teachers, Strzelecki said those decisions would be up to schools, since no Niles ordinance requires them.
If schools want to hire private security, they could consider retired police officers, who can obtain permission to carry a gun, he said.
"That's an option for them (schools). And these are the kind of things that can come out in discussions," Strzelecki observed.
He's expecting most schools will do well in the safety audit, since the police department conducted a similar audit in 2008-09, and schools performed well then.
Niles has no public high schools, but does contain two private high schools, Notre Dame College Prep and Northridge College Prep.
It also contains middle schools, Gemini Junior High and Emerson Middle School, and several elementary and K-8 schools, including Nelson, Mark Twain, St. John Brebeuf, Jefferson and New Hope Academy. There are also preschools and day care facilities. The department's Officer Noah Hernandez is the liaison to all schools, Strzelecki said.