Today is a day to mourn and pray for the victims of the Valentine’s Day school shooting in Parkland, Florida. It is not a day to point fingers and cast blame. However, as the Chief of Police I strongly believe it is never too soon to educate our kids and ask for the public’s help to avoid anything like this ever occurring here in Blythe.
Numerous media outlets are reporting the warning signs we too often only hear about after a tragedy such as this. In this case specifically there are reports that the suspect suffered from depression, was expelled from school, and had rules in place that he was not allowed to have a backpack on campus. It was known that the suspect was an avid shooter and had shown shooting videos to fellow students. There were even reports that the shooter had been “voted most likely” to commit a school shooting.
Whether all or some of these reports are true, the bottom line is there were warning signs and lost opportunities to report suspicious behavior to the school and law enforcement. Research indicates that these youth do not simply just “snap.” There are warning signs prior to acting out. The Secret Service has found that in 75% of the cases they studied, other youth knew about the attack before it occurred, and an adult had expressed concerns about the student. In more than half the cases more than one adult had expressed concern.
Here in Riverside County we have strict protocols to deal with suspicious behavior and reports such as these at schools. Known as the “Kids with Guns Protocol,” the response procedures and responsibilities are specifically defined for law enforcement, Riverside County Probation, Riverside County Office of Education, Riverside County Behavioral Health, Riverside County District Attorney, and Riverside County Child Protective Services.
These protocols were updated in 2016 and renamed the “School Threat Assessment and Response,” or STAR protocol. These protocols are to be used for prevention, threat assessment, intervention, and response to youth who are at risk to commit a violent act.
The key here is activation of these protocols. In the weeks and months after Sept. 11, 2001, I recall Americans were laser-focused on their surroundings and determined to prevent another attack. We were more vigilant, more afraid. I know I was.
Fear is not comfortable, but it does make us more aware. "See something, say something" may not be an awe inspiring slogan, but it works: Many crimes reported to us here at the police department are stopped or solved by one person who reported some minuscule behavior that “just didn’t seem right.”
Blythe is a small, isolated city. We seem to know more about each other’s business, partly because of our isolation, but mostly because we care. We have to remain alert and take the time to report behavior that “just doesn’t seem right,” to the school, to law enforcement, to mental health, or child protective services.
The Blythe Police Department will continue to train with the Palo Verde Unified School District to remain prepared for events like that which occurred in Florida, but we would obviously prefer to stop it before it occurs.
As always my staff and I are available to answer any questions and investigate any crime occurring within the City of Blythe. Anyone wishing to report any crime or suspicious activity is urged to contact the Blythe Police Department at 922-6111 or they can give their information anonymously by calling Crime Stop at 921-CARE (2273), by E-Mail at firstname.lastname@example.org , or on our Instagram or Facebook pages.
Jeff Wade, Chief of Police