By BETH ALTENA Rockford Police Officers had the use of Rockford’s Valley View Elementary, practicing rapid response to an active shooter situation in a public building. According to Homeland Security, this cooperation between different elements of a community is exactly the way to build a safe, secure and resilient infrastructure between public and private sectors. Two Rockford officers recently completed intensive training on rapid response situations, and law enforcement here are benefiting from that training in hands-on practice on how to resolve such situations. In the case of the Rockford officers, a day in the school involving volunteers as victims and perpetrators prepares our police in how to best contain a number of situations in a school or other public setting. Officer Branden Bolema said response to a scenario such as a shooter in a school building, theater, bus stop or other situation has changed dramatically over the years, and ideal response is an ongoing training that evolves as the nature of violence changes in the United States. According to a training video by Homeland Security, the days of a person entering a public building, taking a suspect into custody and making demands are largely gone. Officers then first secured the perimeter of a structure or area and then waited for specialist teams to arrive and deal with suspects. Unfortunately, this technique is no longer the best way to handle many of today’s active shooter tragedies, and criminology experts have used each horrific incident as a training tool for law enforcement to improve outcomes. Bolema described, “Ever since Columbine there have been more of the active shooting situations. They used to surround the school and wait for swat. Now we have immediate action and by the time you wait there may be no lives to be saved.” Homeland Security likewise described the early days of this phenomenon now sadly less rare. The Texas Tower incident of August 1, 1966 in Austin, Texas was a sad milestone where the shooter killed 15 people, and wounded 31, as far as two blocks away. Police then had no plan on how to stop the shooting and ad hoc’d a response by climbing the tower and shooting the perpetrator. A rapid deployment response for law enforcement was not known […]
By BETH ALTENA The possibility of up to 20 years in prison, over $130,000 in restitution and expulsion from Rockford Public Schools faces a 16-year-old Belmont student responsible for various threats against individuals and the student population at Rockford Public Schools. The student caused authorities to spend more than 2,500 hours and $130,000 in resources leading to his capture. He was behind a series of 20 threats of violence and murder aimed at Rockford Public Schools, students and officials beginning in October 2014. The announcement was made Thursday, June 18 at the Kent County Sheriff Department with members from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Kent County Sheriff Department and Rockford Department of Public Safety present. The student used social media and telephones sourced through free online services to call in and tweet threats, including specifically targeting nine individual students and threatening to assassinate Dr. Shibler. Threats included blowing up the high school, driving a vehicle into the Rockford Freshman Center, shootings, putting gas in the air ducts and threats to specific students and Dr. Shibler came through telephone calls and tweets to the school social media site. Early on Shibler said law enforcement deemed the threats were not viable, but are nonetheless criminal and a very serious school matter. The teen was identified as a suspect in May, and reportedly was pulled from school for questioning May 18 and then suspended. Dr. Shibler said he will ask the Rockford Board of Education to order the student to be expelled. He would have entered school next year as a junior. The student was arrested Wednesday, June 17 and charged as a juvenile with felony False Report and Threat of Terrorism, a 20-year crime. It was also announced that the student was in collaboration with a 15-year old from Wilmington, Massachuesetts, and their activity began as an online game. The Massachusetts teen has also been arrested. Both teens have been released. Dr. Shibler said the teen had no previous disciplinary incidents and Undersheriff Michelle Young said there were no previous criminal incidents. Detective William Marks said the investigation included open source and search warrants. It has been reported the search warrants included multiple Facebook accounts. According to an article by MLive, the teen used accounts identifying himself […]
National Night Out is next Tuesday, August 7 Join your local law enforcement, neighbors and more as the Rockford Police, Rockford Fire, Kent County Sheriff’s Department and the Michigan State Police participate in National Night Out Tuesday, August 7 in downtown Rockford from 6 to 8 p.m. According to organizer Officer Aaron Sawyer, the event is not only a fun celebration, but also informative. “Lock your car doors, close your garage at night, leave outdoor lights on,” Sawyer said of simple practices that make a huge difference in preventing crime. Other crime prevention material and giveaways will be available during the two-hour event which is a nationwide initiative. Here, it is held at Maple and Main streets in the parking lot formerly occupied by Northland Pontiac (just west of the Rockford fire garage), downtown Rockford. Rockford’s National Night Out, in its eighth year, always draws crowds of hundreds who can walk from booth to booth under a big tent, visit with our local K-9 Michigan State Police trooper and his dog, throw a ball to try and dunk a Rockford police officer in the dunk tank, and enjoy a meal of hot dogs fired up by our Rockford firefighters (free or by donation with funds going to the Rockford Firefighter Association). If weather is hot as it has been recently, the fire department’s truck on site spraying water to walk or run through will be greatly appreciated. In addition to the Michigan State Police K-9, there will be at least one Michigan State Police motorcycle to admire, and the troopers who drive them can answer questions. Sawyer said events at National Night Out include bicycle helmet fitting, bike registration, face painting, games, a chance to see a Kent County Sheriff Marine Patrol boat and more, making the celebration interesting for all ages. Rockford police began organizing the local National Night Out event along with a host of other community policing programs, such as the Rockford Area Triathlon, Shop with a Cop and Youth Night, as ways to interact with the public in fun settings. The Rockford school district is also one of the last to continue to have a D.A.R.E. program, which here is also organized by a Rockford police officer. With music, plenty to […]
‘It was something that meant a lot to me’ by BETH ALTENA When Maria Arel was in fifth grade she was one of the kids looking at winter coats, mittens and boots with a Rockford police officer and a helper by her side. Today she is a high school senior, a member of a new service group, Rotary Interact, and a volunteer herself. Arel was one of dozens of people who took part in this year’s Rockford Shop with a Cop at Meijer on Ten Mile Road. “It’s great to be able to give back,” said Arel at the event. Students whose families are struggling are chosen to be given $100 in necessities and one toy item with the help of Rockford police officers, who bring a spouse, family member or friend to make the experience less intimidating than it might otherwise be for the children—escorted by a policeman or woman without a parent along. Every officer in the department—with the exception of one “minding the shop”—volunteer the two hours-plus to help the kids pick out items, check out at the cash registers, and then relax with snacks and Santa at the store. The police are there off the clock and at no cost to taxpayers. Meijer has participated in each of the eight times Shop with a Cop has taken place here in Rockford, implemented by Chief Dave Jones in his first year leading the department. Meijer and the Rockford Lions donate the food, beverages, the $100 in goods and a little something else. Store Director Phil Morrow said he looks forward to the event and the kindness he sees each year. As an extra bonus, for each student who has been given the $100 in purchases, Morrow passes out an additional $25 gift certificate. “Today this event is for you. Now you have the chance to do something nice for someone else,” he said to the students. The Rockford Lions, one of our local service clubs, always have members on hand to push carts, help make selections and otherwise be helpful. The group gives $1,000 each year toward Shop with a Cop. Polly VonEschen, of Polly’s Passions (a good gift idea this holiday season), said the experience is always emotional. She remembers one […]
Rockford City Manager Michael Young announced the Rockford Police and Fire departments will merge and become Rockford Department of Public Safety beginning January 1, 2012. Young will act as the Director of Public Safety during the transition with current Police Chief Dave Jones and Mike Reus handling the daily operations of their respective divisions. “We have studied this issue for some time and believe by cross-training our employees we can take advantage of existing resources to enhance our capabilities,” said Young. “This is exactly what we did several years ago when we cross-trained our Department of Public Services employees to be trained firefighters. I feel that this consolidation will make our public safety functions more efficient while saving money with an actual increase in service to the community. We are feeling enormous financial pressure to look at all aspects of our operations differently and this is sound public policy for a community such as ours.” The first phase of the public safety merger will involve cross-training the police officers with fire training. Five members of the Police Department, including Chief Jones, will attend a Fire Training Academy located in Big Rapids beginning in January of 2012. Chief Jones stated, “I am looking forward to the training and the new challenges ahead.” Jones said he and his department have fully embraced the idea of a Public Safety Department. “In our current economy, anything we can do to become more efficient will ultimately result in financial sustainability.” Upon completion of the fire training in January, all full-time police officers will be qualified to provide traditional police, fire and medical response services. Rockford’s part-time police officers will receive medical training to prepare the Police Department for the final transition to public safety in January of 2013. “The twelve-month transition period will allow the Department to make critical adjustments while developing the most efficient public safety model for the City,” said Young. Fire Chief Mike Reus agrees with the ambitious plan. “We owe it to o ur residents to explore any options that will improve services in the City of Rockford,” he said.