McHenry County Republican Sheriff’s candidate Jim Harrison shares his thoughts on school safety below. It is taken from his web site.
PROTECTING THE CHILDREN OF MCHENRY COUNTY
Since the shooting of 13 students at Denver’s Columbine School in 1999, our country has undergone a violent series of school shootings.
In December of 2012, 20 children and 6 adults were killed at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut.
Since Newton, there have been three more shootings at schools.
And we don’t need to go that far away to find an example closer to home.
Many McHenry County residents remember that in 2008, 22 people, including students and faculty, were shot in a lecture hall at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, and four of the shooting victims were killed. The problem may be national, but I believe the solution is local.
Although resolution of the societal problem of school shootings may continue to elude legislators, I believe that here in McHenry County, we can do something about the problem – together – as a county-wide community.
As a community we cannot ignore the problem of school shootings – hoping they will go away.
Parents, teachers, students, and school administrators should not be asked to wait, hope, and pray that such a tragedy does not happen in McHenry County.
And while the legislature is busy debating which weapons they could ban, the shootings continue, and we, as a national community, continue to bury our children.
It’s time to take action. I have a plan to protect our children.
My Plan of Action
The Sheriff has the responsibility to keep the peace and to protect the people of McHenry County. Similarly, the Regional Superintendent of Schools has the responsibility to enforce health and life safety standards in all school buildings in McHenry County. In light of the common duties and the combined county-wide jurisdiction of the Sheriff and of the Regional Superintendent of Schools, I have designed a plan to work together with the Regional Superintendent of Schools, and with all of the community leaders and school officials in McHenry County, to put into place a program to protect our children while they are at school. The program is aptly named:
“SHIELD OUR STUDENTS” (“S.O.S.”)
Simply stated, the SHIELD OUR STUDENTS program would place a highly-trained, state-certified, professional police officer in every school in McHenry County, including private schools, all day, every school day, throughout the year. The officer would be responsible for protecting the security of the children, the adults, and the facility, from internal and/or external threats of violence.
The SHIELD OUR STUDENTS program would require Intergovernmental Agreement
The SHIELD OUR STUDENTS program would require intergovernmental agreements between
- the County of McHenry,
- the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office,
- the McHenry County Regional Office of Education, and
- every municipality and school district in McHenry County.
Because the program might also implicate some collective bargaining agreements, the input and cooperation of the local police labor unions may be needed as well. Although the SHIELD OUR STUDENTS program would necessarily require the cooperation of many government, community, and school leaders, no better cause and no higher priority exists than the protection of the children of McHenry County while they are at school.
Although the SHIELD OUR STUDENTS program may sound like a big endeavor, (and it is), it would also be a very big first step toward providing real protection to our children while they are at school.
How would the SHIELD OUR STUDENTS program work?
The theory is to pool together all of the professional, state-certified law enforcement officers in McHenry County (including current and retired county deputy sheriffs and municipal police officers) and to compile a list of officers who are interested in working part-time for the SHIELD OUR STUDENTS program during their off-duty hours. From the list, every school in McHenry County would be staffed 10-hours per day with a certified law enforcement officer. Municipal police officers, while working for the SHIELD OUR STUDENTS program, would be given extended law enforcement jurisdiction from the Sheriff, and authorization from the Regional Office of Education, to enable them to work at any school building in any city, village, town or rural area in McHenry County.
And from 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., on every single school day throughout the year, a state-certified, professional police officer will secure our schools, and shield and protect our children from harm.
How would the SHIELD OUR STUDENTS program be funded?
Funding for the SHIELD OUR STUDENTS program could come from a variety of sources including all of the units of local government involved; i.e., school districts, municipalities, and McHenry County. The costs of the SHIELD OUR STUDENTS program, and the costs of insuring the program, could also be shared across the county via intergovernmental agreements.
Additionally, state and/or federal grants may also be available to assist in funding the program. For example: The United States Department of Justice, through their Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), could be a source of federal funding for the SHIELD OUR STUDENTS program, by means of its “Secure Our Schools Program” which provides federal grants to support initiatives to improve school safety.
Because the SHIELD OUR STUDENTS program would be a part-time program, the school districts would not have to pay costly overtime rates or expensive employment benefits. Neither would school districts have to train, outfit, or equip officers. Instead, highly-trained, state-certified, professional police officers would be present every school day to secure our schools and to protect our children.
Putting the Costs into Perspective
To help put things into perspective somewhat, consider this: McHenry County/Sheriff’s Office spends hundreds of thousands of dollars each year employing people whose job it is to protect the judiciary and the courthouse. It should be equally important to protect our children and their schoolhouse!
Whether you have children or grandchildren in school in McHenry County, everyone would rest a little easier knowing that the children of McHenry County are being protected by professional police officers when they are at school.
The Duty of Government to Protect Our Children
When school officials take custody of our children during the school day, they act in a capacity known to law as “loco parentis” which means “in the place of the parent(s).” In addition to the legal authority parents (and school officials acting in the place of parents) have over children, they also have legal responsibilities. One of the responsibilities of being a parent, and of acting in the place of the parent, is the responsibility to protect the children from harm. Protecting our children while they are at school is the shared responsibility of the School Districts, the Regional Superintendent of Schools, the Sheriff’s Office and municipal law enforcement agencies across McHenry County, and the motivation behind the SHIELD OUR STUDENTS program.
Admittedly, a comprehensive school security program requires more than a police officer being stationed at the school. Written safety guidelines, installation of security equipment, cameras and alarms, evacuation drills and emergency response protocols all play a role in security, … just to name a few. But generally speaking, criminal offenders avoid going to places where the police are stationed to commit their crimes. Drive-by shootings don’t happen in front of police stations. The reason is because the police are armed and trained and prepared to respond to threats of armed violence. [Afraid that he might encounter armed resistance, the shooter at the movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, went to two other movie theaters first before committing his carnage at the only theater of the three that prohibited the concealed carrying of firearms.]
A highly-trained professional police officer can provide a strong, often impenetrable, first line of defense against an armed assailant attempting to enter a school. Moreover, a police officer can immediately summon the assistance of other officers via police radio, and take a tactical or defensive position until other reinforcement units arrive. As Sheriff, I will urge the Regional Superintendent of Schools, the School Districts, and other involved units of local government to work with me to secure every school in McHenry County and to shield our students from harm.
As Sheriff, I will make the protection of our school children a top priority. I believe the Sheriff has a duty to protect everyone in McHenry County, and no one deserves and needs our protection more than our children. Regardless of where you live in McHenry County, or where you worship, or where you work, or where your children attend school, the importance of protecting all of our school children from threats of armed violence is a shared priority concern. The children of McHenry County are our legacy, and when I am elected Sheriff, I will take affirmative steps to bring government and school leaders together as a county-wide community, to protect and enable our children’s futures. Let’s work together so that our children can focus on their studies and look forward to their futures, while a professional, highly-trained, state-certified police officer watches over them and shields them from harm.
As a candidate for Sheriff, I will continue to develop this initiative during the campaign, so that when I am elected Sheriff, we can immediately begin to implement the SHIELD OUR STUDENTS program, and take further steps to secure our schools and to protect our children.