Like many other law enforcement agencies around the country, the one in Somerset, Ky., periodically holds training for active shooter scenarios, with administrators hoping at the same time the training never needs to be put to use. In late January 2013, the department took a step aimed at preventing that type of situation with the introduction of “See-Hear-Report,” an anonymous text-a-tip program aimed at students in the county’s 20-plus rural and small town schools.
"Our department has been very progressive over the years in a number of different programs. Our acting chief, Doug Nelson, saw a Colorado program that targeted bullying via an anonymous text-a-tip program, and he wanted to start the same type of program here because students and young adults are so very comfortable with sending text messages," says Lt. Shannon Smith.
After exploring several possible options, the Somerset Police Department settled on a service used by a number of agencies across the nation and targeting efforts toward students in the county’s three high schools.
Smith says the service provides students with an assurance of anonymity and confidentiality, but at the same time allows the department to track the information through its system to ensure that all tips receive appropriate followup.
"Reports indicate that in a number of the situations involving active shooters in schools in this country, other students knew about it beforehand and didn’t tell anyone, maybe because they were fearful, or embarrassed, or didn’t think it was their place to tell," Smith says. "With See-Hear-Report, they will be guaranteed confidentiality without fear of retaliation. We do a lot of things in our department geared toward response and handling these types of situations, such as for a number of years we’ve sent our officers to active shooter training and conducted in-house training on active shooter response. We want to market this toward the prevention end of things and give the students an opportunity to stop an event before it takes place."
The 40-officer department also plans to keep up with the active shooter training, including a refresher course that took place over the December 2012holiday break at one of the local high schools in Somerset itself (population 11,300; the county’s population is 60,000).
"It was pretty well set up when news of Sandy Hook came down," Smith says. "It hit us hard like anything does that to has to do with kids being injured or killed, but there was a sense of satisfaction that we were not in the same situation as many other departments watching this on the news, because most of them were not just days away from sending the entire department through a refresher course in an actual building. We always try to be progressive and we’ve trained and prepared in the event anything ever takes place, but we also want to do whatever we can to prevent something from happening."