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Local News

Santa Barbara Police, Schools Reviewing Safety Protocol After Newtown Massacre

Connecticut tragedy inspires local authorities to look at 'what we can control,' including conducting more premise checks on campuses

Police are helping local schools review their safety protocols in light of last month’s massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

The Santa Barbara Unified School District is already reviewing its school safety plans — which are presented to the Board of Education every February — and will coordinate with police to have a larger officer presence on campuses.

There have been far more “premise checks” by officers on school campuses within the Santa Barbara city limits in recent weeks, a sign of things to come.

“Our plan is that visibility ... continue on the process (Chief Cam Sanchez) already started, which is getting neighborhood cops into the neighborhoods,” Superintendent Dave Cash said.

Cash, Santa Barbara district principals and police met recently to discuss safety plans for the schools.

“In light of what happened in Connecticut, the tragedy there, we’re now looking at what we can do better,” Santa Barbara police Capt. David Whitham said.

Whitham said authorities have been examining their protocols, and how to respond to active shooters at a school, since the 1999 shootings at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo. Local police do drills on campuses during the summer, among other things.

Santa Barbara police units have fast response times, but the department will train school staff on what to do in the critical minutes before police arrive to an emergency situation, said Whitham, the patrol division commander. They hope to develop a standardized training for school employees.

He added that police are also making sure they have updated contact information, keys and maps for all of the city’s schools, so no time is lost while responding. For several years, every patrol car has carried binders of maps for each school campus, and police personnel do regular walk-throughs to ensure they have firsthand knowledge of the layout.

“The basics, just the basics, can have a huge impact — just having accurate information,” Whitham said.

Sanchez said “everyone who carries a gun is going to do a walk-through of the schools” in the coming year, according to Sgt. Riley Harwood.

“It’s not like it’s been forgotten or we haven’t done it in the past,” Whitham said, “but with what happened in Connecticut, it brings the issue to light and shocks everybody. We might feel it could never happen to us, but it’s just not the case; it certainly could.”

Police will help review district safety protocols and may come talk to students, Cash said.

The Sheriff’s Department is interested in doing the same thing the district is doing with Santa Barbara police, said Cash, adding that the two departments have a mutual support agreement so they can respond to the other jurisdiction’s incidents.

Cash said he has been meeting often with Sanchez and Goleta Police Chief Butch Arnoldi since he came on as superintendent last summer.

“Our goal at this particular point is to look at what we can control and do that as well as possible,” Cash said, “and for the things outside our control, take and follow the advice of law enforcement as well as possible.”

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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