Security Increased at Putnam Schools and Public Facilities Following Newtown Tragedy

Putnam County Sheriff Donald B. Smith reports that security procedures have been enhanced at schools and other pubic facilities in Putnam County following the tragic violence that occurred last Friday at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in nearby Newtown, Connecticut. The Sheriff emphasized that the increased security efforts are being implemented solely as a precaution and not in response to any specific threats.

The Sheriff noted that comprehensive safety procedures have long been in place at area schools and public facilities, but that Friday’s tragedy in neighboring Fairfield County has prompted heightened security awareness and increased preparedness in Putnam County, as it has in many communities across the nation. “Putnam County law enforcement agencies, school officials and local government leaders are working together to take appropriate and prudent steps to guard against any potential copy-cat incident here, ” said the Sheriff.

In the years following the infamous school shooting incident at Columbine, Colorado, law enforcement agencies and local school districts in Putnam County and across America developed plans and protocols to safeguard against and respond to similar acts of school violence. Since Columbine, new tactics and training have been devised and implemented for law enforcement officers for responding to situations of active shooters in schools.

By grim coincidence, even as the terrible events were unfolding in Newtown on Friday morning, the Putnam County Emergency Response Team (“ERT”) happened to be assembled for regular training in Carmel, and team members were at that very moment engaged in a mock scenario of an active-shooter in a school. The ERT is comprised of specially trained and heavily armed officers from the Sheriff’s Office and the Carmel and Kent Police Departments. When news broke of the Newtown shooting, the Putnam County ERT commander called Newtown Police and offered to have the ERT respond to the Sandy Hook school, but that response was not needed because Connecticut police had already secured the scene.

As information circulated about the Newtown violence, the Sheriff’s Office notified school district officials in Putnam County. The Sheriff’s Office and local police departments dispatched patrols to establish a security presence at area elementary schools and to augment the security already in place at most of the high schools and middle schools in the County, where deputy sheriffs are regularly assigned as School Resource Officers (“SROs”). Over the weekend, too, the Sheriff’s Office coordinated with local government officials to provide deputies and plainclothes investigators for security at several civic events throughout the County.

Sheriff Smith has invited police leaders, school authorities and local government officials to a meeting to be convened at the Sheriff’s Office headquarters in Carmel on Tuesday. Officials will discuss security concerns and coordinate additional actions to further enhance safety at schools and other public facilities going forward. In accordance with an exemption under the state Open Meetings Law, the meeting will not be open to the public or the media, as disclosure of the specific security matters to be discussed would imperil public safety.