Retired Tucson Police sergeant writes book on school security, m - Tucson News Now

Retired Tucson Police sergeant writes book on school security, mass shootings

Retired Tucson Police sergeant writes book on school security, mass shootings

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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - School security is the focus of a book just released by retired Tucson Police Sgt. Mike Widmer.

Widmer said he hoped his book "Intervention" would open up a dialogue surrounding mass shootings and active shooters, "particularly regarding grade and middle school changes from "response" to "prevention.""

The fiction novel is about the government putting together a team of experts to "intervene" and stop a mass shooting before it occurred. The team's goal is to get there before the shooting starts.

In an interview with Tucson News Now, Widmer said school shootings were now an epidemic, and he hoped district staff would change they way they look at such incidents.

"Once the shooting starts, it's over. Then you're going to have casualties. My contention and the whole purpose of this book is to get people to start talking prevention, not response," said Widmer.

Widmer said as a result of his book, he had started receiving invitations from school districts to speak about the issue. He was working on putting together a presentation to show school administrators.

Widmer declined to say which districts he would be speaking at for now, but said he felt a positive energy from officials about the conversation they hoped to have.

At the end of his book, Widmer includes a chapter on what he feels schools should be doing to prevent mass shootings. Some of his suggestions include: Making each school accessible by only one central exit and entry point, installing a locked door that could withstand gunfire and "greeting window" made of bullet proof glass, training some of the school staff to carry guns, and he suggested that all surveillance cameras in all school campuses should feed into one monitoring station on campus, with someone watching it at all hours.

"I want to make it clear, I don't advocate that teachers carry guns classrooms. What I feel is select faculty who have proven they can handle firearms should be trained by the local police for a program that includes response," said Widmer.

We stepped inside the Sunnyside school district security offices to see how they felt about Widmer's suggestions. Security staff said they had heard about Widmer's book, and were eager to learn more about his ideas.

Sixto Molina, the assistant director for transportation at the district said they had more than 800 cameras on all their campuses and school buses.

"While school is in session there's somebody watching. During the day somebody is always watching," said Molina.

The district had spent $1 Million in the last few years to upgrade security. Officials said they were planned to practice drills, and keep reminding staff on how to respond to different scenarios via short 15-minute videos they planned to send them frequently. These clips would address everything from a gas leak, to car chases, and active shooter situations.

"The belief is if children and staff don't feel safe and secure in school, they're not able to learn," said Molina.

We asked Molina what he thought about some of the suggestions regarding school security made in Widmer's book. While he embraced most of them, Molina said some of them might be a hard sell to the community.

"We did discuss doing some of those things and decided no we don't want to have fortresses here. We run schools and that was made clear to us," said Molina.

Widmer said he was impressed with how the Sunnyside school district was handling it's security, but he felt all districts could do better. He said the issue was very personal for him, and should be for every parent.

"I got kids, I got grandkids. The two things I hate the most are mass shooters and child predators. My next book deals with child predators," said Widmer.

He added that he was not trying to scare people with his book. "What I am saying is the whole sphere of school security has to change and it has to deal with parents. Parents can be dangerous too," said Widmer.

Widmer said parents needed to realize they too might not have "open door" access into their child's school and be able to walk in and complain at any time. They too would have to accept the idea of being "monitored".

He said he felt encouraged by several big changes being made by school districts throughout the country.

"First, in Centennial a local gun club is offering training to teachers for acquisition of concealed weapons permits. Although I don't advocate this type of training without inclusion of the police agency responsible for the district involved, I recognize it as people seeing the threat these types of incidents pose, and it is a first step."

Here is the link to that story: http://bit.ly/1AG2a9x

He also applauded a school district in Denver for seeking out and acquiring new technology.

"This is the first motto I have seen that gives me hope that there is some action being taken to change from response to prevention: 'DON'T SCARE EM, SAVE EM"

To the would-be shooters, I see people starting to take measures to stop this madness. Everyone keep it up and let these monsters know: "They are coming", said Widmer.

Here is a link to that article:

http://kdvr.com/2014/08/21/denver-schools-unveil-new-high-tech-security-tools/

Widmer said any school district who wanted to discuss prevention with him could reach him at mwidmer52@yahoo.com.

He expressed concern about what was going on in Missouri.

"This story about Missouri shows the disconnect and disagreement about arming teachers. I don't support teachers wearing guns in the class room unless the setting is rural. I do support selected staff/teachers who are cut out for the type of training involved to get their training from police and sheriff's in their districts and have assault rifles available that are secured and used only in conjunction with district coordination with law enforcement with a clear cut plan for turning over a scene to law enforcement when they arrive," said Widmer.

You can read more about that proposal in this article: School Districts Arming Teachers In Rural Missouri  

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