Armed marshals to patrol Douglas County schools

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Beginning with the 2013-14 school year, armed officers will circulate through all Douglas County School District elementary and middle schools and early childhood centers.

Armed officers are already present in the district’s high schools.

Flanked by Douglas County law enforcement officers, with about 20 Soaring Hawk Elementary fifth-graders seated in front of her, Superintendent Elizabeth Fagen announced the new security program during a May 30 press conference at the Castle Rock school.

The partnership among DCSD, Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, and the Parker, Castle Rock and Lone Tree police departments was created in response to December’s mass shooting in a Newtown, Conn., elementary school.

“Our whole school district was brokenhearted over that event,” Fagen said. “We were committed to taking that brokenheartedness and turning it into something better.”

Modeled after the airline marshal program, Douglas County deputies and police officers in plain clothes will circulate among schools in close geographic proximity to ensure daily visits to all DCSD schools.

It “will create safety and security like we’ve never had before,” Fagen said. “We’re not aware of any other program like this in the country.”

Each of Douglas County’s nine high schools already has an armed, uniformed school resource officer. The marshal program expands on that idea, encompassing all schools.

DCSD confirmed that its investment is more than $500,000, with the partner law enforcement agencies paying the unreleased balance. School and law enforcement representatives were light on financial and other details, saying the information could compromise the very security they aim to provide.

“Sure, there’s cost involved,” said Sheriff Dave Weaver. “We as a united front will work out those costs; it’s for the best interests of our citizens.

“This is about the community of Douglas County, that we will never allow something like this to happen. If they want to come to Douglas County, they’re going to wonder, ‘Is there a police officer in that school?’ That’s a risk they’re going to have to take.”

DCSD formed a safety committee immediately following the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting, and the marshal program is part of a series of measures that arose from that group. Those include training for school staff, structural changes in schools such as improved exterior doors, new locks, additional cameras and exterior lighting, established safe areas, stepped-up visitor screening and enhanced district-wide communication.

DCSD school security already includes locked doors and safety personnel at the front doors of each building, safety and lockdown drills, and many other programs.

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