The old adage that holds police officers run toward a threat while others run away holds true in Brick – whether it involves a SWAT team or a single patrolman.
Brick Police Chief James Riccio, in the wake of the Parkland, Fla. school shooting during which an officer on scene remained outside while a gunman killed 17 inside, said it is the Brick police department’s policy to take on the threat, no matter what.
“The first one goes in,” said Riccio, responding to a question from a resident at a council meeting Tuesday night as to how a Brick police officer would handle a situation similar to the Florida shooting. “That’s how we train, that’s what we do.”
A national debate over gun control spurred by the shooting evolved into a debate over the role of police officers in active shooter scenarios after news emerged that Scot Peterson, a Broward County sheriff’s officer, stayed outside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School during the incident. Peterson, through his attorney, claimed this week that he thought the shots were being fired from outside the school and took up a “tactical position.”
Riccio said in Brick, any officer on the scene would enter the school. Additionally, if the department’s Selective Enforcement Team, colloquially known as a SWAT team, would make entry into a school building alongside specially trained EMTs.
“Our EMS train with our SWAT team and they go to a special school to learn how to go in with our officers to an active shooting,” said Riccio. “They would follow our officers into the school. They get tactical training with us.”
Three EMS crews are at work at a given time, Riccio said, but the township has a multitude of mutual aid agreements with other towns and squads who would respond immediately if needed.
Riccio and acting schools superintendent Dennis Filippone this week announced several new initiatives aimed at increasing security in the township’s school buildings. The district is considering funding options for redesigned points of entry (vestibules), outside and inside doors, improvements to video cameras and improvements to the public address systems. It is also planning to revamp an online tip form where students, parents and others can anonymously report concerns about school safety.
School staff and the police department have already partnered in drills and developed policies to protect from such threats. A new task force will review all of the measures presently in place and incorporate new technology, such as GPS mapping of school buildings, in order to eliminate threats.
“It’s amazing, after seeing what the chief and Mr. Filippone had in place for a long time, that Brick has been ahead of the game for a long time,” said Councilman Art Halloran. “They have been very thoughtful in how they protect our children.”
Councilwoman Lisa Crate, a teacher in Jackson, praised the close partnership between the police department a school district.
“That’s not the case in every town,” said Crate. “We have a phenomenal police department and I am so grateful to be able to work with them and help them become one of the greatest in Ocean County and all of New Jersey.”