In the wake of the recent school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, Mayor Michael Gonnelli and Secaucus Police Department Chief Dennis Miller reviewed the safety measures taken by the town. They wanted to ensure that protocols are in place for the safety and security of students, teachers, and staff throughout the school district.
“It was heartbreaking to hear updates as events unfolded in Uvalde,” said Gonnelli in the town’s monthly newsletter. “No family should fear for their child’s safety while at school. I would like to assure parents that our schools are as safe as they can be. Our Police Department goes above and beyond in reviewing security protocols and enhancing their training, and I have full confidence in them.”
“We take student safety very seriously,” Miller said. “Secaucus has many security measures in place already. We’re ahead of the curve and take advanced steps that many other towns do not.”
Miller laid out a three-pronged approach to all security measures at school: prevention, deterrence, and effective response.
Safety protocols in place
There is a special team of police officers at Secaucus schools, with one officer posted at Mill Ridge School, Huber Street School, Clarendon School and Secaucus Middle School. According to the town, the team is comprised of retired police officers who are fully trained, armed and hold full police powers. At the High School, a full time Secaucus Police Department officer is on duty, along with the L.E.A.D. Officer William Eccles, who also goes to all schools.
“Our police officers are the first line of defense at every school, and we make sure that they’re trained to respond appropriately,” Miller said. “We repeatedly conduct drills, and assess lockdown and evacuation procedures frequently.”
Other safety measures include the policy of keeping doors locked to prevent outsiders from entering the building and screening every visitor, according to the town. Enhanced “park and walk” patrols by police officers on duty seek to add another level of security outside the buildings.
To prevent any incidents, the SPD’s Planning and Intelligent Section also constantly monitors social media for threats and investigates any unusual activity or conversations promptly. According to the town, any threats are also shared with federal, state and counter-intelligence agencies to investigate.
Prepared for the worst
In case of a threat, officers, school staff, faculty and members of many departments are instructed to use skills acquired during specialized training exercises.
Recently, an Active Shooter Drill was conducted at Secaucus High School where school staff, faculty, and members of the Police, Fire, Emergency Management and Public Works learned tactics on how to respond to an emerging situation.
Procedures were re-evaluated and refined after evaluations of the Active Shooter Drill, according to the town. The Police Department also partnered with the Board of Education to digitally map each school to locate the presence of officers for a more direct response to “engage and neutralize any threat.”
Patrol cars are outfitted with enhanced weaponry in case there is an assailant in body armor. In addition, School Resource Officers Keegan and Eccles are certified for their roles; and a new certification on Threat Assessment completed by Lt. Elphick complements the Department’s preparedness, according to the town.
If the need ever arises, the police officers are directed to follow an “immediate response” strategy with the goal of “engaging and neutralizing the threat.” Mutual Aid partners and the SWAT teams in Hudson County are to be called upon if needed, according to the town.
Miller concluded: “As a parent myself, I understand the concerns parents may have in the light of the recent incident in Texas. But I want to assure them that our foremost goal is to prevent any incident, and we are fully prepared to keep our students, faculty and community safe.”
For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at email@example.com.