The Police NewsKilgore, TX
East Texas Law Enforcement Leaders Sound Alarm on School Safety Concerns
Kilgore, TX-- Sheriffs and other high-level law enforcement leaders representing 18 Counties across East Texas recently met and discussed their growing concern related to school safety. Specifically, they noted the urgent need for a technology system that would allow all first responders to immediately communicate with one another and to see real-time video inside the school in the event of an emergency, giving them the exact location of a perpetrator as well as the layout of the building.
“Unfortunately, we know there are bad guys out there who will seek to harm our children,” Gregg County Sheriff Maxey Cerliano said. “Some great efforts are being made to add additional physical layers of protection and arm our teachers and school officials, but the best way to save lives is to make sure we, as first responders, can all immediately and effectively communicate with one another when it matters most,” Cerliano continued.
Reports detailing devastating failures in response to school shootings going back as far as the Columbine massacre point to communication problems that cost lives. Because multiple agencies respond to the emergency, each with its own communications system, it is almost impossible to get all first responders on the same page. In the case of the Uvalde shooting at Robb Elementary, 376 law enforcement officers were on the scene, but it took 82 minutes to neutralize the shooter, in large part due to communication failures, a lack of real-time information, and overall confusion.
“We are very fortunate in East Texas that we haven’t had any active shooter situations in our schools, but we’ve seen where other jurisdictions have had some real challenges,” Rusk County Sheriff Johnwayne Valdez said. “For us, it’s especially concerning because of the rural nature of much of our region. We have few resources spread over a large geographic region, so if something happens we need to be able to get looped in from wherever we are so we are prepared to respond before we even arrive. Seconds literally save lives,” he continued.
Governor Abbott recently included school safety and specifically technology upgrades on his list of emergency items. East Texas sheriffs are hoping automated emergency response will be included in the legislation and budget that is finally passed.
“I’ve had the opportunity to work with Governor Abbott and our other elected officials down in Austin on everything from our Anti-Gang Unit to the Financial Crimes Center. I know they take public safety seriously, especially when it’s about our kids,” Smith County Sheriff Larry Smith said. “I truly hope that we can get some targeted support for a system that will allow all our radios to work together and that gives us real-time video inside the schools so we can see exactly where the perpetrator is and how we can neutralize him,” he concluded.
The law enforcement leaders who attended the meeting and support a solution include:
John Cortelyou, Camp County Sheriff
Cutter Clinton, Panola County Sheriff
Jason Bridges, Nacogdoches County Sheriff
Johnwayne Valdez, Rusk County Sheriff
Larry Webb, Upshur County Sheriff
Kevin W. Windham, Shelby County Sheriff
Jeffrey K. Neal, Bowie County Sheriff
Robert P. Cartwright, San Augustine County Sheriff
Tom Maddox, Sabine County Sheriff
William R. Flores, Anderson County Sheriff
James Caldwell, Red River County Sheriff
Brandon "B.J." Fletcher, Harrison County Sheriff
Charla Singleton, Delta County Sheriff
Maxey Cerliano, Gregg County Sheriff
Larry R. Smith, Smith County Sheriff
Larry Rowe, Cass County Sheriff
Ricky Jones, Franklin County Sheriff
Todd Hunter, Kilgore Police Chief
Gary Pinkerton, Smith County Chief Deputy
Alton Lenderman Jr., Angelina County Captain