Recent active shooter training brings to light the continuing threat officers face while trying to protect area students from violence.
Sgt. Jeff Kimsey, director of safety and security for the Excelsior Springs School District, said the training helps everyone think through the possible strategies that will help protect the students of Excelsior Springs.
“It’s a shame, especially in schools, that we’ve come to that spot,” he said. “Schools are supposed to be fun and are supposed to be about learning. They’re not made to be a fortress … It’s a shame it has come to that.”
The training went well, Kimsey said. This year, Sgt. Mike Lewis and Sgt. Jeremiah Renne, both of whom work as school resource officers, ran the training and created realistic scenarios for the officers to go through. Keeping the scenarios realistic helped the officers take the training very seriously, he said.
Kimsey said they also invited ESPD officers to tour each of the schools to gain familiarity with the layout of each building. He said this will help officers know how to quickly get to any student in need.
“If someone is calling for help, if there’s a shooting or a situation that we need an officer there, it’s good to know those different areas,” he said.
Safety training will continue in August, Kimsey said. They plan to hold alert, lockdown, inform, counter and evacuate training, often known as ALICE, with the teachers. This training will help the teachers understand how to proactively address any potential threat of violence that may face their students.
Kimsey said they plan to follow this training up with additional work to help lead teachers through various scenarios they may encounter. In the past, he said they went from classroom to classroom, helping teachers evaluate how best to keep the students safe. They evaluate where they can hide, what they can use for weapons and the quickest way to evacuate each specific classroom. In the past, Kimsey said Lewis walked the hallways posing as a potential threat. As officers announced Lewis’s location, officers could see how the students and teachers responded. This allowed them to identify potential issues, such as doors many tried to evacuate through. That prompted Kimsey to block that exit to force everyone to think through another possible exit.
“It’s just getting their minds thinking that you’ve got to be prepared,” he said.
Kimsey said he also works with Excelsior Springs High School Activity Director Joe Greim to prepare plans to keep everyone safe during sporting events and other activities that take place on school campuses. Several officers including Kimsey will always attend home football games, along with the school administrators. Evacuating a stadium will be tricky, he said, but they will continue to prepare plans and think through scenarios to help make the process easier and safer.
Stadiums do have multiple points of exits, Kimsey said, that will help matters in the event of an emergency.
When he enters a building, Kimsey said he locates the closest exits from his location. He said he suggests others do the same.
Students and parents can help assist officers and keep schools safe by paying attention. If they see or hear something regarding a potential threat, even if they think it to be a joke, Kimsey said students must tell someone.
“So many times when you have a shooter or a situation like this, an angry student or whatever, it’s something that could have been prevented if somebody would have said something,” he said. “If someone would have come forward, even if they think it’s a joke, and if they say something, we can, a lot of times, put a stop to that.”
Parents and guardians must be proactive with their children and keep tabs on their friends and activities. If weapons exist in the household, parents and guardians must keep them securely locked up.
If parents have suspicions that children may be planning a violent act, they should talk to the police. He said he remembers a story of a Washington grandmother who turned in her grandson for potentially planning a school shooting.
Throughout the school years, the SROs, including Lewis, Reene and Officer Samantha Nash, work to develop relationships with their students. Kimsey said they hope this will develop a rapport that will encourage students to talk with the officers in the case they learn of a potential threat.
The officers work hard to help students feel comfortable approaching them. Kimsey said the students must know their privacy will be kept and their identity will not be divulged.
Students know what goes on with their fellow students, he said.
Sgt. Larry Tarrant said the ESPD is continually working with the school district to keep everyone safe. To do this, they must prepare for things he hopes they never have to face.
“In the environment we live in, you have to prepare for everything,” Tarrant said.