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New school lockdown policy passes early test

The call came in as a man dressed in military fatigues armed with an assault rifle.

When officers arrived, the suspect was alone in a liquor store on the corner of Ball Road and Dale Avenue, blocks from Dale Junior High School.

As officers asked passers-by and the liquor store’s owner to take cover in neighboring businesses, the department sent an officer to the school.

The police department’s response to the Jan. 15 incident – and its implementation of a new school lockdown policy – were topics of discussion Friday at John Welter’s Police Chief’s Advisory Board meeting.

Outside the liquor store, as officers developed strategy to contact the suspect, he walked out, the rifle flung over his shoulder.

Officers ordered him to drop the weapon.

It wasn’t until they heard the clang of the rifle hitting the ground they realized it was an Airsoft pellet gun, not an AR-15 assault rifle. The man also carried an Airsoft handgun, which also shoots pellets, and a hunting knife.

“If you looked at it from there to there,” Welter said, motioning about a foot ahead. “You would not know it wasn’t real.”

The man was arrested and held for medical observation.

Before the noon arrest, safe-schools officer, Jamie Pietras helped school officials gather students into classrooms while keeping close tabs on the incident via radio.
In the past, the police department didn’t always deploy officers if the incident wasn’t directly impacting a school.

Although the new policy was unveiled Dec. 18 – four days after the gunman killed 20 children and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut – police and school officials had been collaborating to put it together for nearly a year.

It codifies police response and provides school officials with direction about what to do – and what to expect from police.

The policy categorizes three levels of lockdown – alert, caution and emergency.  Level one, or “Alert,” means school officials will lock gates and restrict access.  Level two, or “Caution,” means an officer is en route and everybody should be inside classrooms. Level three, or “Emergency,” adds locking doors, covering windows, turning off lights and more.

Police officials have met with school officials, many of whom were unclear about how to respond to “lockdown” orders in the past.

The Dale incident was classified as “Caution” and was over in less than 10 minutes.

If you’d like to see the new policy or have questions, please email Sgt. Bob Dunn at rdunn@anaheim.net.

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