Bath County Sheriff shares thoughts on school safety
Hot Springs, Va. –
Bath County Sheriff Robert Plecker feels that it’s important for law enforcement to have a connection with students. He thinks that the interaction with students that comes from being in the schools and offering various programs is a big plus. The recent school shooting tragedy in Connecticut is focusing attention nationwide on another type of interaction with students, how to best to protect them at school during an emergency.
“We had a survey we had to do per Governor McDonnell on our school safety,” says Plecker. “I know the school system done it. I looked at what they had to do and then I looked at what we had to do as law enforcement. And basically the Governor asked what do we have in place. And I know I’m one of many agencies that we basically operate under and with the school policies, but as far as a nailed down security, we have none. We did not have any in place. We get there when we can, that’s why we’re going now more. The cameras, the security systems, you can’t go wrong. But I’ve stressed to the School Board and the Board of Supervisors that there’s nothing like having an armed, uniformed police officer on campus too. I went to the schooling for an SRO, a School Resource Officer, came back and at that time the administration just thought we didn’t need it. Now everyone’s taking a reactive instead of a proactive approach. Everybody now is reacting to the school shootings.”
Sheriff Plecker has officers in and around Bath County schools every day now. The Virginia State Police is also involved in helping to check the schools.
“Every officer knows to go to the elementary schools, walk in, be seen, go to the classrooms, go to the office, check all the perimeter doors outside,” says Plecker. “And we found very few, some of which are to be replaced through some of the budget stuff. We found a few that’s unlocked, but the administration’s good about making sure they’re secured and now we’re finding a lot less on a daily basis. They’re basically all being secured now.”
Plecker has additional training planned for Bath County officers.
“This summer we will be performing some active shooter training for all of our department in the schools for the school system, they want to see this also,” says Plecker. “But I’ve sat down and actually talked to a couple sheriffs in the Commonwealth that now are going reactive. They’re all practicing this and training for a Virginia Tech or a Newtown shooting. We’re going to do the same thing.”
Sheriff Plecker plans to connect with and interact with students on a regular basis. He hopes to do school programs focusing on leadership and being a role model. He’s also planning drug and alcohol abuse programs for the high school.