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Calcasieu Parish Sheriff Tony Mancuso. (American Press Archives)

Calcasieu Parish Sheriff Tony Mancuso. (American Press Archives)

Calcasieu school security plan in the works

Last Modified: Saturday, February 23, 2013 5:48 PM

By Eric Cormier / American Press

Calcasieu Parish Sheriff Tony Mancuso made the decision a month ago to provide a full-time safety coordinator to work as a liaison between his agency and the Calcasieu Parish School Board.

Along with doing safety assessments at all parish schools, the deputy is also responsible for communicating safety messages and conducting training for education professionals.

Mancuso, who has been in law enforcement for more than 30 years, never thought he would see the day when these types of preventive measures would be warranted to protect children.

Neither did he think that law enforcement agencies would have to change their focus and start spreading the word that at times the public would have to protect itself until authorities arrived during what public safety professionals refer to as an active shooting, like the ones in Newtown, Conn., and Aurora, Colo.

The Sheriff’s Office is writing a plan for parish schools, and its mantra is “Lock Out, Get Out, Take Out.”

Mancuso said work on the parish plan started late last year. The School Board will review it.

“Overall, our department has an active shooting policy. As morbid as it sounds, we’re not going to negotiate and will shoot to kill and stop the threat,” Mancuso said.

“Our safety coordinator is in the process of going to the schools, though, and talking about ‘Look Out, Get Out or Take Out.’ Teachers and administrators need to understand they may have to do whatever is possible until we get there. Rest assured we will get there.”

McNeese State University administrators and security staff have begun publicizing a message aimed at empowering students and faculty ahead of any violent incident.

In a written statement to the American Press, campus Police Chief Bob Spinks said that “See it. Hear it. Report it.” is what people on campus should remember.

“We want McNeese students and employees to be mindful, not fearful, and the first step in preventing any kind of crime is to encourage self-awareness,” he said. “Think about where you are and what’s going on around you. Are there risks that you observe and if you see anything suspicious report it.”

For years, law enforcement agencies’ position on such incidents was for victims to hide and contact police.

But police understand a lot of injuries and deaths can be caused in a matter of seconds by a shooter. During those moments, the natural fight-or-flight response takes over and decisions that can lead to life or death are made quickly.

Mancuso’s proposed plan for the School Board represents a change in thought and action as people are now going to be advised to fight as a last resort.

“If there is a shooter, you have to have the mindset to do whatever it takes to try and protect yourself and children,” he said of the school policy. But the thought also applies to general settings. Most people will never be caught in a situation where such extreme violence will take place.

Mancuso said Calcasieu Parish is fortunate not to have had such a crime occur, and he believes locals would help one another during those circumstances.

Spinks recommends the college population make a plan on how to respond to a crime while on campus.

“Getting away is the best option, if possible. Hiding in a safe location and notifying law enforcement of the emergency is also a good plan,” he said.

The best way to prepare for a violent incident is to play the “what if” game, Spinks said.

“It’s the same game that new police recruits should be playing in their minds every day. What if this crime or that crime occurs, what would I do? What if I am faced with this situation or that situation, what are the steps that I will follow?” he said. “Situational awareness, staying alert and aware of your surroundings, and not ignoring warning signs is the key to not becoming a victim of crime.”

The Sheriff’s Office already has school resource and DARE officers serving throughout the parish. Mancuso also instituted a policy that encourages department employees who have access to an agency car to visit a school and walk around to keep a presence on campuses.

“Yes, that is above and beyond normal duties, and we do log these visits. We have changed a little about the way we operate to try and eliminate threats,” he said.

School Security Plan

Proposed CPSO Dangerous Intruder or Active Shooter policy for Calcasieu Parish Schools:

• Lock Out — Keep the shooter out of your room or facility. This method can be used by barricading doors using desks, chairs, filing cabinets, etc. If this is a good plan after securing the doors and windows, find a secure place in your room away from doors and windows and take cover.

Get Out — Run away from shooter. This is used when you’re unable to lock or secure your location, attempt to help students Get Out of the area by running away or maybe exiting a ground-floor window.

Take Out — This method is used as a last resort. If the attacker is in your immediate area, blocking your path, and there is no way you can Lock Out or Get Out, you must fight back and Take Out the shooter using available means. If the Take Out option is required, teachers should prepare students with clear and confident instructions to throw anything available at the intruder, including a fire extinguisher, chairs and books.

Source: Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office

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