Obtaining a good education and graduating from high school are among life’s most important achievements. Parents send their children to school with the expectation that they will be in a nurturing environment and given an opportunity to learn and excel. To make this expectation a reality, our youth must be safe in their classrooms, homes, parks or at the shopping mall.
As the chief of police for Miami-Dade Schools Police Department, I know that we are committed to promoting the safest environment for our students and staff. I’ve been clear concerning our priorities: education first and safety always. Over the years, we’ve implemented comprehensive security protocols, which are part of best practices across our nation. Our school safety plan includes various anonymous reporting platforms, site-specific emergency measures, security monitors, camera systems, fencing, lockdown and evacuation procedures, random metal detectors and additional canine firearm detection dogs.
We partner with local, state and federal agencies, such as Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, to assist with firearms-related investigations, and track and investigate illegal guns.
These school-based efforts notwithstanding, there are exterior factors beyond our control, that can have a lasting impact on youth, and we’ve seen the tragic results far too often.
The current gun culture and gun violence occurring across our nation is a community problem brought on by a myriad of factors. While accessibility to guns — particularly by our youth — has reached an unacceptable level, the issue is much more complex. Quality interactions with our youth through mentoring, counseling, coaching and providing character education are the key to mitigating gun violence in our community.
Moreover, I must emphasize parental involvement and community engagement are the keys to prevention and mitigation. Increasing this connection was one of the main purposes of the recent Roundtable on Youth Safety, in which mayors, law-enforcement, education and mental-health professionals gathered to discuss and recommend meaningful actions to build a strong safety net of support for our youth.
As a result, a number of proposals were made to bolster security measures in schools and throughout the community, several of which are in various stages of implementation.
Reducing weapon-related violence, by and against our youth, remains one of my top priorities, but curbing this violence requires a collective response.
The Miami-Dade Schools Police and all district personnel will continue to implement strategies and policies in an effort to create Weapon Free School Zones, where every campus is recognized as a safe haven.
The responsibility of safety and security doesn’t rest solely with school resource officers, teachers and school administrators; it’s a shared responsibility that must be embraced by all.
Our children, and our future, depend on it.
Ian A. Moffett, chief of police, Miami-Dade Schools
Police Department, Miami