Threat assessment program could help prevent school shootings

BY Raven Santana, Correspondent |

Christopher Wagner, chief of police in Denville Township, was among 75 law enforcement professionals, mental health experts and educators that attended a threat assessment program at Morris County’s Public Training Safety Academy.

The two day training, focused on preventing school shootings, starting with identifying the threat mentally not physically.

“You want to talk about Columbine days and earlier, or you want to talk about Parkland on Valentine’s Day this year. Don’t we want to look at behavior and assess behavior and try to return that young person to be productive members in of our school and productive members of society?” asked Morris County Sheriff James Gannon.

Law enforcement says the key to preventing an act of violence is by seeing the signs early on.

“We’ve spent tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, and in some school districts millions of dollars on security. This training is free. We got the government to fund it. There are things to identify, there are things that are going to be crystal clear to us when we leave here that are actionable,” Wagner said.

“We are training these educators, law enforcement professionals and mental health professionals how to evaluate or assess that report once you bring it forward,” said Dr. Marisa Randazzo, managing partner of Sigma Threat Management Associates.

Randazzo led the training program. She says the company’s threat assessment process is based on research by the U.S. Secret Service and Department of Education.

“So for the school threat assessment process we conducted a study called the Safe School Initiative. One of the things that I think is most important, that people don’t understand, is that prior to most school shootings in the U.S., the school shooter let other people know about their violent ideas and plans beforehand,” Randazzo said.

“No child should be afraid to go to school, no parent should be afraid to drop them off, and no teacher should be afraid to go to work,” said Lt. Keith Lefferts of the Parsippany Police Department.

Later in December, the same training will be done in other counties, including Bergen and Middlesex Counties.