BY KRISTI FISH | MIRROR REPORTER — Collaboration was the theme of the evening during a community safety forum hosted by Maumee City Schools on August 11.
Maumee city officials, including Mayor Rich Carr, Police Chief Josh Sprow and Fire Chief Brandon Loboschefski, along with interim Superintendent Steve Lee and several school officials, were present during the event.
The forum provided the opportunity for Maumee residents to join the officials while they discussed safety initiatives in the schools and throughout the community.
“Our top priority for tonight is an increased understanding of our community and school building’s safety-security practices,” Lee said.
Lee outlined the measures the district has taken in previous years to ensure the safety of students. This has included changing how students, staff and visitors enter the school and how classroom doors are locked.
Additionally, several teachers have been trained or certified to help provide necessary care in different emergencies. CPR/AED training courses are given along with threat assessment training and CPI training.
CPI, or Crisis Prevention Institute, training helps staff de-escalate situations in which someone may be exhibiting disruptive or assaultive behavior.
Many of the safety measures taken at school have been a result of the Maumee City Schools Safety Committee. City officials and school officials are on the board and work to identify strengths and weaknesses in the schools and how best to address them.
It’s all part of the ongoing collaborative effort, Lee said.
“The partnership that you’ve had, the collaboration you’ve heard about in our ongoing meetings, is what allows us to be a leader in this area, in the area of safety,” Lee said. “We’re constantly looking at, reviewing, thinking about, talking about how we can be better and do better.”
City and school district collaboration includes emergency response. Staff members are equipped with a StaffAlerter, which sits on lanyard. When pressed quickly, it can send out an alert that lets the appropriate people know additional support may be needed by the teacher. However, if held for three seconds, it will immediately notify staff, the superintendent, the police chief and dispatch. The doors of the school can then be locked and only opened by the emergency responders.
Collaboration also happens within the departments in the city. Loboschefski said the fire department is always working to improve its training and the preventative measures the department can take to make the community safer.
One thing the fire department does in conjunction with the police department is the Rescue Task Force. RTF requires the police and fire/EMS to train together, so in emergency situations they can work better together. Programs and trainings like this are developed based on incidents that occur across the country each year.
“Every time there’s something we can learn from, we do,” Sprow said.
As part of the RTF, the police will respond to a scene and look for the threat. Working quickly, they can move medics into the scene faster than once was the case. Fire/EMS is equipped to handle the scenes that have not been fully secured and cleared, and police are also trained in first aid.
The goal is to eliminate the number of casualties in any emergency and make sure all departments are able to work better together.
During the forum, Sprow spoke about other efforts by the police department. A CIT, Crisis Intervention Team, program has been used to train police in how to respond in different scenarios, including encountering someone suffering from a mental health crisis. Mental illness is not a crime and that means officers must respond appropriately, Sprow said.
Officers learn how to de-escalate when someone is in crisis. Sprow said the police department deals with someone who is suffering from a mental health crisis almost every day, and it is important to emphasize safe responses.
“It’s important that our officers know – maybe what they’re doing is triggering them,” Sprow said. “Maybe coming at them from a different direction, a different tone – yelling at somebody in crisis doesn’t work. Another huge component is also family members. Letting them know there are resources out there for them.”
In the ongoing effort to increase safety and support, together with the senior center, the police department reached out to seniors at the beginning of the pandemic and spent time contacting those who might need extra resources or help with finding food or obtaining necessary medicine or transportation.
During the forum, attendees also heard from the district’s school resource officers, Scott Russell and Corey Henson, who work within the schools.
Mayor Carr said he felt it was important for children to meet with police in non-emergency situations, so they aren’t nervous when they see them out in public.
The SROs can be found throughout the schools, greeting students when school starts and saying goodbye to them at the end of the day. Occasionally, they are also in the classrooms.
This year, they will be helping with a new program, Law Enforcement Against Drugs, or LEAD, which will replace DARE.
LEAD is an evidence-based program that is regularly updated and can be expanded for all grades. It will cover education, dating violence, online profiles and more.
In order to fulfill the goals of the program, Sprow sought a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice, which allowed the hiring of a social worker and a counselor to help with the implementation of the program.
“They’re going to be trained to do LEAD. They’ll work with our SROs, teaching them as well,” Sprow said. “They will start maintaining a case load with kids.”
The ultimate goal of the city, Carr said, is to make sure local children feel safe and grow up in a community that values their safety.
“Understand that as a parent, this city is always looking for something bigger and better for our kids,” Loboschefski said.
At the end of the forum, attendees were able to submit questions and comments about the community safety. The questions and answers will be made available at a later date.