Thursday, May 3, 2018

With your help, we've enhanced our response to threats against schools

Since my previous blog on mass shooting threats, I wanted to update you on what’s been happening regarding this in Kansas City. After the horrific shootings at the high school in Parkland, Fla., on Feb. 14, school threats came pouring in across the metro. As far as we can tell, there have been 21 verifiable incidents involving threats of mass violence since Feb. 14 in Kansas City, Mo. Twenty of the 21 were directed at schools. We immediately investigated and followed up on every one of them and have implemented new practices to ensure these types of threats don’t slip through the cracks. We would not have been able to do any of it without the community’s vigilance and reporting.

We started a new notification system to ensure the right people on the department can start tracking down suspects as quickly as possible. And because they were so numerous, we even created a new report category in our records management system in April for these types of terroristic threats to increase our ability to track case progress and accurately reflect the number of incidents we’ve encountered.

Let me share an example of how we handled one of these incidents. Someone at one of our high schools notified police of a possible threat of violence they’d learned about the previous day. The person had heard students were going to bring a gun after school to confront other students on April 12. Police quickly converged on the school just before dismissal. One of the officers spotted the two juveniles who purportedly made the threat walking purposefully toward the front of the school with what appeared to be firearms. Four officers moved in and stopped the two teenagers. They recovered a loaded gun from each of them and took them into custody, stopping who knows what kinds of violence.

Most of the people who have made these threats are juveniles. The majority of their families that we’ve encountered have been very supportive and helpful in KCPD’s efforts to intervene and prevent school violence. Although many of these juveniles have been taken into custody and charged with making terroristic threats, KCPD is doing more than just enforcement-based response. Our social workers and Crisis Intervention Team officers are working with them and their families to ensure they’re receiving the help they need. Some have struggled with mental illness, and we’ve worked to connect them to treatment.

As I said in my post after the Parkland shooting, the protection of children is one of our top priorities. But we must be aware of threats of violence everywhere, from a country music concert to a Waffle House. Our prevention, notification, investigation and enforcement activities remain the same for all potential threats of mass violence. But we need your help. If you hear or see any threats of violence against one person or a whole building full of people, please call 911 immediately. (Please do not notify us via social media. That’s not monitored 24/7, nor can we dispatch from there.) We’re ready to respond. From our perspective, this successful police-community partnership already has prevented violence at schools in Kansas City.

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