CDs Will Play Well in Crises

Law enforcement officials in a Florida county have one more tool to combat school violence, crimes and other emergencies - a compact disc.

The Broward Sheriff's Office (BSO) recently equipped its 1,300 road patrol deputies, supervisors, dispatchers, SWAT teams and school resource officers with a CD containing detailed floor plans, aerial photos and interior pictures of 61 public and private elementary, middle and high schools in the agency's jurisdiction. Broward County Fire-Rescue squads also have copies.

According to spokeswoman Cheryl Stopnick, the CD was developed so that deputies unfamiliar with a particular school would know where to go, how to gain access and whom to contact in case of an emergency. Deputies have laptops in their patrol cars.

"It's marrying innovation with technology with traditional law enforcement," Stopnick said. "This innovation gives people a peace of mind that we're prepared to handle any emergency that pops up."

In a worst-case scenario, such as a hostage crisis, Stopnick said the CD could cut planning and response time by hours. She said thay many times responding officers have arrived on a scene and asked where they should be positioned.

With the CD, supervisors and dispatchers can pre-designate perimeter points and staging areas. "Everyone is on the same page with the same information," she said.

But Stopnick said the CD wasn't developed just for the worst-case scenario but also for other situations, such as a school burglary or a report of a missing student. The disc also contains phone numbers and names of school principals, superintendents, supervisors, the county's other fire and police departments, and hospitals.

In Broward County schools last year, there were no incidents of violent crime, such as homicides, shootings, stabbings or riots, according to Stopnick. Most calls, she explained, were for disturbances on campus followed by trespassing, fighting, theft and vandalism.

The disc was created in-house for about $2,500 plus staff hours, Stopnick said.

She said it would be updated at least once a year to include the names and phone numbers of new school officials. She said that some of the other 25 or so municipal police departments in the county, which has 216 public schools, have expressed interest in the CD.

Broward County includes the city of Fort Lauderdale and has a population of 1.5 million people.

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