Police join schools for crisis management; Obama unveils gun plan
by Mark Andrews
Jan 17, 2013 | 2625 views | 0 0 comments | 22 22 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Cartersville Chief of Police Thomas Culpepper speaks to the faculty and staff at Excel Christian Academy about what they might expect if an active shooter enters the campus. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
Cartersville Chief of Police Thomas Culpepper speaks to the faculty and staff at Excel Christian Academy about what they might expect if an active shooter enters the campus. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
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The Cartersville Police Department has begun providing crisis programs to local school faculty, staff and administration. On Wednesday, the department made a visit to Excel Christian Academy.

“With the increased interest now in protecting the schools because of the Newtown shootings, our training officer Lt. Troy Rowell developed a short program for administrators to show them what to expect from the police department responding, what we would be doing, what we would not be doing, basically how we are going to handle the situation,” CPD Public Information Officer Capt. Mark Camp said. “... Our No. 1 role is to stop the threat, and if we do get an incident like the Newtown incident, then our first duty is to stop that threat because we need to save as many lives as possible.

“Our first moves in that school is to find where the threat is and neutralize the threat. ... We want to include educators in preparing for such an incident that might happen so we can plan for an event rather than react.”

Camp said the department would visit local schools in the coming days to present the information to educators and administrators.

Bartow County School Resource Officer Dan Knowles previously explained the role of law enforcement in local schools.

“Deputies of the Bartow County Sheriff’s Department are not assigned to any of the county schools,” Knowles said in an email. “The Bartow County Campus Police is its own separated police department, recognized by the state in August of 1998.

“All the officers are certified police officers and have full arrest powers.”

He added, “Cartersville City Schools contracts with the Cartersville Police Department to provide two police officers as [high school and middle school] SROs. We do have a Mutual Aid agreement with the sheriff’s department and other municipalities for support in the event of a major incident.

“Sheriff [Clark] Millsap has always been supportive of the school system and the Campus Police Department, whenever we have needed assistance.”

Principal Wesley Roach expressed his gratitude for law enforcement taking a proactive role in ensuring student safety.

“We appreciate the relationship the Cartersville Police Department has with our school, as well as other schools in the community, and we believe the partnership we enjoy with local law enforcement is the best way we can prepare ourselves to know how to respond in the event of an emergency,” Roach said. “We certainly appreciate their willingness to lend their knowledge and resources to us as we train and prepare.”

He added, “I think it will benefit our staff to learn how the police will respond in the event of an emergency and [the police] can communicate with us on how they want us to respond. Actually, we have emergency preparation plans, very extensive plans, in place and I have shared those with local law enforcement so they have an opportunity to review those, and certainly we value our input as we always are looking at ways of improving our security for our students.”

President Barack Obama on Wednesday unveiled the most sweeping proposals for curbing gun violence in two decades, pressing a reluctant Congress to pass universal background checks and bans on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines like the ones used in the Newtown, Conn., school shooting.

A month after the massacre, Obama also used his presidential powers to enact 23 measures that do not require the backing of lawmakers. The president’s executive actions include ordering federal agencies to make more data available for background checks, appointing a director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and directing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to research gun violence.

One of the measures calls to provide incentives and federal funding flexibility for schools to increase security, including hiring school resource officers.

“To make a real and lasting difference, Congress must act,” Obama said. “And Congress must act soon.”

The president vowed to use “whatever weight this office holds” to press lawmakers into action on his $500 million plan. He also is calling for improvements in school safety, including putting 1,000 police officers in schools and bolstering mental health care by training more health professionals to deal with young people who may be at risk.

The National Rifle Association promptly took issue with Obama’s proposals, and even supportive lawmakers said the president’s gun control measures face long odds in Congress.

“Attacking firearms and ignoring children is not a solution to the crisis we face as a nation,” the NRA said in a statement. “Only honest, law-abiding gun owners will be affected and our children will remain vulnerable to the inevitability of more tragedy.”

House Speaker John Boehner’s office was non-committal to the president’s package, but signaled no urgency to act on the legislative proposals.

“House committees of jurisdiction will review these recommendations,” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said. “And if the Senate passes a bill, we will also take a look at that.”

The White House has signaled that Obama could launch a campaign to boost public support for his proposals. Nearly six in 10 Americans want stricter gun laws in the aftermath of the Newtown shooting, with majorities favoring a nationwide ban on military-style, rapid-fire weapons and limits on gun violence depicted in video games, movies and TV shows, according to a new Associated Press-GfK poll.

A lopsided 84 percent of adults would like to see the establishment of a federal standard for background checks for people buying guns at gun shows, the poll showed.

The president based his proposals on recommendations from an administration-wide task force led by Vice President Joe Biden. His plan marks the most comprehensive effort to address gun violence since Congress passed the 1994 ban on high-grade, military-style assault weapons. The ban expired in 2004, and Obama wants lawmakers to renew and expand it.

Other measures Obama wants Congress to take up include limiting high-capacity ammunition magazines and requiring background checks for all gun buyers in an attempt to close the so-called “gun-show loophole” that allows people to buy guns at trade shows and over the Internet without submitting to background checks.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.