September 21, 2014

Medina
Cloudy
66°F

Preventing tragedy: Officials reassure public about readiness

MEDINA — Arming teachers in order to prevent a repeat of Friday’s killings at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school would be “a recipe for disaster,” Medina Mayor Dennis Hanwell said.

Hanwell, who served as Medina’s police chief 13 years before becoming mayor in 2010, said having school staff members wielding guns would make it difficult for police to distinguish innocent teachers from armed intruders.

Medina Police Chief Patrick Berarducci tells a Medina City Council committee Wednesday about how officers are trained to deal with a shooting like in Newtown, Conn. With him is Sgt. Brett McNabb. (GAZETTE PHOTO BY KIERA MANION-FISCHER)

Hanwell’s comments came Wednesday at a special session of City Council’s Health, Safety and Sanitation Committee.

The purpose of the meeting was to discuss how the city could prevent an event like the Newtown killings.

Hanwell said police tactics have evolved over the years to better respond to mass murders.

After the April 1999 shootings at Columbine High School, in Colorado, police stopped waiting for a SWAT team to arrive. Instead, the first four or five officers arriving on the scene would enter the building where a gunman was suspected to be.

“Today, we don’t wait for multiple officers to get there,” Hanwell said. “We respond with the first officer to arrive at the scene.”

Medina Police Chief Patrick Berarducci said officers are getting more training to deal with the wounded.

He said the Medina Life Support Team is now training officers in “tactical combat casualty care” — techniques used by the military to give the wounded immediate aid.

Each officer carries bandages that stop bleeding quickly and combat tourniquets, he said.

Every police cruiser carries a sledge hammer, pry bar and set of bolt cutters that can force entry to a building, he said. Each car also carries not only a rifle but a 12-gauge shotgun and extra magazines and ammunition.

Medina Superintendent Randy Stepp, who also attended the meeting, said the school district has a close working relationship with local police departments.

He said the district is in the process of implementing ALICE training — teaching staff and students to “fight back and get out of the facility as quickly as possible.”

The district is also re-evaluating school buildings and how they are structured for safety.

At every elementary school but one, visitors must enter the building through the office. The last building will be updated over winter break, he said.

This week, police officers have been assigned to patrol every school building in the district throughout the day — a move designed to reassure parents in the wake of the Connecticut killings.

Stepp said keeping that up would be extremely costly — about $1 million a year.

Berarducci said all police supervisors and nearly all patrol officers are trained to recognize the different forms of mental illness and to de-escalate those situations.

During the public comment section of the meeting, Medina resident Jean Linderman urged the city to consider a ban on assault rifles.

“Why can’t Medina be a city in which you can’t bring an assault weapon into city limits?” she asked.

At-large Councilman Paul Rose, chair of the committee, said he was concerned about violating residents’ Second Amendment rights.

“I don’t think we want to punish people who are law-abiding citizens who use it for hunting, for target practice, in the appropriate places,” he said.

Contact reporter Kiera Manion-Fischer at (330) 721-4049 or kfischer@medina-gazette.com.