Since the Columbine High School shooting made headlines around the world, have made active-shooter response part of their regular training.
“We’ve been doing rapid deployment/active shooter drills since 2000,” Chief John Konopek said. “Ever since Columbine happened, we’ve made sure it’s a big emphasis that all our sworn officers are prepared to handle an active-shooter situation.”
According to Konopek, allowing school resource officers to store their AR-15 rifles on campus would give police one more tool to respond to the unthinkable.
Last week, school board members discussed a proposal to in four Plainfield campuses: , , and .
The plan would not include , which is under the jurisdiction of the Joliet Police Department.
According to Konopek, the idea was brought forth by school resource officers (SROs), who are stationed at each campus. The safes would be installed in the SROs’ offices and would be accessible only to them, Konopek said.
“We’ve been very fortunate,” Konopek said. “We haven’t seen anything close to what they’ve seen at Columbine, in [ in .”
But officers conduct regular drills to prepare for the worst, including a 2008 full-scale, active-shooter simulation at Plainfield North High School. More than 100 actors participated in the drill, Konopek said.
Having their AR-15 rifle on campus would be one more weapon on SROs’ arsenals, he said.
Konopek said research shows that compared to a handgun, long guns are more accurate at longer distances and put officers in a better position to respond to an active shooter.
“We took a look at, what kind of tools should an officer have access to in an active-shooter situation,” Konopek sad. “I’m a father of two children that are in high school now. Would I want the officer assigned to that school to have that tool in case of an intruder or active shooter? I would want that officer to have every tool in his toolbox to neutralize [a shooter].”
Konopek said the idea isn’t unique to , noting that police in Naperville, Bartlett and Sycamore all store their long guns on campus.
The gun safe would be secured so that it could not be removed from the SRO’s office, and only the officer would have access to it.
“Nobody from the school district would have access to it at all,” Konopek said.
For now, Konopek said the proposal remains in the idea stage.
“That’s all it is, an idea, a proposal,” he said, adding police will continue to work with the district’s Policy, Planning and Administration Committee, which has been asked to generate policy language that would allow for the installation of gun safes.
Konopek said it’s unclear when the proposal could go before the school board or a vote.
“We’ll abide by whatever decision they make,” he said.