Monday, February 18, 2013

Workplace & School Violence Prevention

Violence in schools and workplaces is now at the center of a national conversation about public safety.  Our attention has been focused by tragic events such as those at Virginia Tech, Fort Hood, Hartford, Minneapolis, Aurora, and Sandy Hook.

No community can afford to ignore the risks of school and workplace violence and much as we all wish it could be, St. Louis is no exception.  Our own recent past includes the shooting at ABB in 2010, which left five people injured and four dead.  Just a few weeks ago, another incident took place at the Stevens Institute for Business and Arts, where a student shot and wounded a school official.

The attack at Stevens occurred just days after I became Chief. I saw firsthand the impact a violent assault has on a school or public place.  Along with the actual victims, there is also a secondary effect, as people everywhere are forced to think twice about their own safety and the safety of their families.  Law enforcement isn’t just about protecting people and prosecuting criminals.  It’s also about making people feel safe, and for every person who falls victim to a school or workplace attack, there are millions of others who have every right to ask “what can be done to stop this from happening again?”

After Sandy Hook and again after the Stevens Institute incident, I began asking myself that same question what can the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department do both to help protect people and to make them feel safer?  At the time, one response we discussed and promised to deliver was awareness training for leaders from the business and academic communities, to help them understand how to better protect their facilities, their staff and their clients or students against the risk of violent incidents.

Friday the Department followed through on that promise by co-sponsoring two back-to-back seminars on Workplace and School Violence Prevention.  This training was provided by members of our Department. The goal of the program was to help participants understand the trajectory of workplace and school violence, the known characteristics of assailants, the warning signs which may precede an incident and the mechanics of the initial police response.

My approach has always been and always will be that guns have no place in our workplace or in our schools and we as a society have to be better about keeping illegal guns out of the hands of criminals.  This training reinforced my thoughts. 

Nearly 300 people attended and benefited from Friday’s seminars. For that success, I’d like to thank everyone who took part.  Special thanks should also be given to Ameren Corporation for generously donating the use of their training facility to make these events possible.

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