Brooklyn, NY – Yesterday morning, administrators and principals from over 130 schools gathered at the Tiferes Mordechai Ballroom to hear from top NYPD officials and FBI regarding urgent measures that need to be taken to secure local schools from terrorism and active shooter situations. This event was coordinated by Misaskim in an effort to further the safety measures in our schools and yeshivos. Attending the conference were representatives from schools in Boro Park, Williamsburg, Crown Heights, and Flatbush. At the dais were FBI Assistant Director in Charge New York Field Office Diego Rodriguez and his team, Commanding Officer of the NYPD Hate Crimes Task Force Deputy Inspector Mark Magrone, Ira Tannenbaum Deputy Commissioner for NYC Office of Emergency Management, Patrol Boro Brooklyn South Assistant Chief Powers, Patrol Boro Brooklyn North Deputy Chief Trabitz and NYPD School Safety Division Inspector Harell. Also in attendance were representatives from Hatzolah and Shomrim of Flatbush Boro Park, Crown Heights and Williamsburg.
Misaskim Director Rabbi Yanky Meyer opened the event by stressing that the urgency of the matter cannot be overstated. According to Rabbi Meyer the goal of the event was for school officials “to hear the messages from law enforcement as to what schools should be doing in the event of active shooter situations and terrorism c”v.”
The officials elaborated on the ever-growing threat of terrorism around the world, pointing to the recent horrific terror attacks in Paris and San Bernandino, California. In addition, they described the sad reality of the threat of mass shootings in the U.S., particularly in schools.
FBI Director Rodriguez stressed the importance of coordination of community leaders and law enforcement officials. In fact, this is the first time ever that the FBI Director came to address the Jewish Community. “Now more than ever, we must rely on each other,” Rodriguez said. He warned that despite the fact that the threat of terror is very real “I urge you not to let fear become disabling; instead turn that fear into healthy awareness”.
Inspector Magrone defined what constitutes a hate crime and how his department makes an effort to best tackle every reported incident. He encouraged participants to report any occurrence however insignificant they seem. Hate crimes are treated very seriously even when it is committed by a minor, he explained.
In his address to the school representatives, Chief Powers challenged the audience: “What are you doing to protect your schools from this threat?” He stressed about the importance of prevention and the need “to take a soft target and turn it into a hard target”, by securing entrances and exits with professionally trained armed guards in every school. He reiterated that “school security depends on you” since the overwhelmingly large number of schools in the area make it impossible for the NYPD to protect all facilities at all times.
Chief Trabitz then outlined simple steps schools can take to protect their staff and students in the event of an attack. He urged the administrators to each develop an emergency plan, which would be activated in an active shooter situation.
Inspector Harell and Lieutenant Kalim educated the audience about the programs available by the NYPD School Safety Unit, which include NYPD officers surveying locations, assessing the risks, and issuing security recommendations as well as a hands-on drill in the school building.
The audience participated in an energetic question and answer session with the officials, showing their dedication and determination to do everything possible to protect our community’s most precious asset- our children. They discussed immediate steps they would take as well as long term changes that would gradually be implemented. A lively discussion took place regarding the very relevant question of the financial cost to our already cash-strapped schools. However, many made it clear that they would not allow cost to delay or obstruct their plans to protect the children under their care. “For my kids, I would spend whatever it takes to ensure their safety,” one administrator expressed passionately at the meeting. “It’s the first expense every school needs to think about.”