Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon, the Morris County Chiefs Association, Morris County Department of Law and Public Safety, and the Jersey City / Newark Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) hosted a two (2) day training for school threat assessments in preventing school active shooter incidents. A team combined of seventy-five (75) members of law enforcement, education and mental health, were instructed by one of the world’s foremost experts, Dr. Marisa Reddy Randazzo, Ph.D. (Sigma Threat Management Associates) on how to assess and manage potential school violence.
Following the devastating shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland Florida, Sheriff James M. Gannon called for a meeting with Madison Police Chief Darren Dachisen, President of the Morris County Police Chiefs Association (MCPCA), and his executive Board of Officers. He was very concerned that although Morris County Law Enforcement had become very adept at drilling, and planned response for active shooters, an approach towards prevention of school shootings was long overdue.
They established a working group and developed a plan. The primary stated focus of the group was the development of a threat assessment framework that could be usable by each Morris County Police Chief, School Superintendent and Principal (and potentially throughout the state).
The group collaborated on the establishment of a Threat Assessment Working Group and set out to recruit collegial input from subject matter experts from varying disciplines. Sheriff Gannon knew from his years of working on the Joint Terrorism Task Force that the United States Secret Service (USSS) was the unparalleled experts in the field of threat assessment; because of the very nature of their work. The group also recognized the need to include the mental health field and, in particular, focused on school psychologists. Finally, it was collectively expressed that inclusion of victims and their families would be important.
Mark McKevitt, Special Agent in Charge of the Newark Office of the United States Secret Service immediately signed on as a member of the panel and offered resources from the USSS including the help of the former Research Specialists in Washington DC who authored several studies on School Violence. Follow up calls to the Chief Research Psychologist and Research Coordinator at the USSS Threat Assessment Center Dr. Marissa (Reddy) Randazzo, Ph. D. resulted in an acceptance to consult with Morris County on the threat assessment model. Dr. Randazzo also introduced us to Gene Deisinger, Ph. D. Dr. Deisinger was hired by Virginia Tech University to design a threat assessment program following the tragic events in Virginia. He has also developed threat assessment models for the Virginia Center for Campus Safety. Each has committed their contributions on this project.
Chief Wagner of the Denville Police Department arranged for a conference call with two experts that he has formerly partnered with; Dr. Melissa A. Louvar Reeves, Ph. D. NCSP, LPC, the immediate Past President of the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) and Michelle Gay, Co-founder/Executive Director of Safe and Sound Schools. Michelle Gay has toured the nation speaking on the topic of school shootings ever since the tragic day when her beautiful daughter Joey was killed in the Sandy Hook School Shooting.
The team began a partnership with Sigma BTAM (Behavioral Threat Analysis Management) to create a usable threat matrix and immediately went to work.
At the recommendation of County Administrator John Bonanni and Morris County Department of Law and Public Safety Director Scott DiGiralomo, the Morris County Board of Chosen Freeholders and the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) jointly funded the development of: A Guide for Enhancing the Safety & Well-Being of Schools & Communities in Morris County, NJ & the Jersey City/Newark Urban Area Security Initiative. This one hundred (100) page guide is the basis for the training offered on November 27 and 28, 2018. At the training, a team combined of seventy-five (75) members of law enforcement, education and mental health, were instructed by one of the world’s foremost experts, Dr. Marisa Reddy Randazzo, Ph.D. (Sigma Threat Management Associates) on how to assess and manage potential school violence.
Sheriff Gannon said:
“I am extremely pleased that we were able to concertedly fast-track this lifesaving training before year’s end; to me it was imperative to act swiftly.”
“Morris County does it right in so many ways, discovering, reporting and interrupting school and campus shootings is a paramount goal of law enforcement, mental health and education. Today that partnership has a shared platform and philosophy on which to work; we will certainly be more adept, and more in tune with each other’s disciplines, and therefore better equipped to thwart loss of life.”
“Together we hope to stop the actor before the first shot, and to be ‘left of bang’ on the timeline.”
Chief Ciro Chimento said:
“As the representative to the Morris County Police Chiefs Association, I wanted to emphasize our shared desire to work in union with our local school leaders; by doing so we can save the lives of students, teachers, and even the potential shooter. This has been a great collaboration from the start.”