NORMAL, Ill. (WMBD) — As a debate rages in Texas over police response to the shooting at Robb Elementary School last month, Illinois school resource officers are meeting in the Twin Cities for their annual conference. The topic: responding to threats against a school.
105 school resource officers learned Wednesday how to finesse their response when a threat is made against a school. The goal is prevent tragedies like a shooting from taking place in the first place.
The annual Illinois School Resource Officers Association (ILSROA) state-wide conference is taking place Wednesday through Friday at the Marriott hotel in Normal. Normal Police Department officer Jeremy Flood is the vice president of the association.
“We got officers from everywhere in Illinois; across the state, Chicago area, St. Louis area,” Flood said.
For 20 years, the goal of the conference has remained the same; to help make Illinois schools as safe as possible. Flood said he takes the information learned at the seminars and uses it to plan his school’s safety and first response plans.
“I’m one guy. I have to have a system in place that my teachers, my principals, my staff can use to react to an emergency or crisis in a building,” Flood said.
The topic of this year’s event is responding and investigating threats made against a school. Wednesday’s opening seminars of the conference happened nearly a month after an elementary school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, that claimed 21 innocent lives.
Sarah Edwards, the principal at McLean County Unit 5’s Grove Elementary, said school safety is of utmost importance to the district.
“There was a reinforcement in the importance of safety in our schools, as we know that’s important every day, but when things like that happen it brings it right to the forefront,” Edwards said.
Edwards and Officer Flood work together at Grove Elementary and said it’s a collaboration when it comes to executing the school’s safety plan.
“I work closely with him to do all the required drills and I feel like he just makes our environment safer because of the relationship that we have,” Edwards said.
As officers in Uvalde come under fire for their response to the tragedy, Flood said he hopes to learn from the horrific incident.
“We still don’t know the exact story of what happened. We have some info, but a lot of it that gets put out there ends up being untrue,” Flood said. “Usually it takes almost a year to get a full breakdown of what happened in an incident. Once we get that full breakdown, that’s where we learn from it and make improvements to our plans based on what we learn.”
State Representative Dan Brady (R-Normal) said he believes Illinois schools need more school resource officers, not less.
“These are the officers in the frontlines in the schools that can identify the issues, mental illness and other challenges that drive some of the youth to some of the horrific things that we see,” Brady said.
Officers from the City of Bloomington, Peoria County Sheriff’s Office and other central Illinois communities also attended the conference.