WOODLAND PARK • Less than two weeks after 19 children and two teachers were shot dead in their fourth grade classroom in Uvalde, Texas, Woodland Park Police Chief Chris Deisler has faced questions about safety in local schools.
At the first community engagement forum on June 8, a woman expressed concern for her grandchildren. She asked the chief if there was a liaison between the police and the school. What if we had an annex for parents to pick up their children in case of illness?
“I can’t or won’t talk about protocols,” Deisler said, speaking to a group of residents, city officials, Teller County Sheriff Jason Mikesell and the Teller County Sheriff’s Office. , Lt. Renee Bunting. “We have a close relationship with the schools, we had a meeting with them a few days ago.”
Relatively new to the job, Deisler said he has the recent shootings on his radar. “All officers and sheriff’s deputies have undergone training to respond to active fire,” said Deisler, who was hired in February and took over as chief on March 28. “As you know, Colorado is ground zero for the hardest-hitting school shooting. . So we’re laser-focused.
Deisler was referring to the April 20, 1999 shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton: two teenagers murdered 12 students and 1 teacher and injured 23.
Along with the training, the chief plans to provide officers with “ready to go bags” strapped to the thigh and equipped with “everything you might need to keep that person (victim) from bleeding, or whatever. either, gauze, tourniquet shears,” he said.
There are school resource officers from the sheriff’s department in every school in the city, Mikesell said. “Since the chief has been here, we have worked together on school campuses,” he added.
Additionally, the multi-jurisdictional SWAT team, comprised of officers from Cripple Creek, Woodland Park and Teller County, is equipped and ready to respond to active fire, Mikesell said. “I’ll tell you, this county has a more aggressive response than most cities,” he said.
Sheriff’s deputies work with EMS organizations in Teller County whose first responders are trained to deal with mass casualties, Mikesell said. “For those of you who watched the news about the event in Texas, that’s not what you’ll see here. Our people know very well what they need to do,” he said, referring to the fact that Texas police delayed entering the elementary school in Uvalde, Texas during the May 24 shooting rather than barging in.
The Woodland Park School District has a responsibility to keep students safe. “That’s one of the discussions we’re having right now,” Mikesell said. “But the schools are privately owned, so it’s the school districts’ responsibility to bear some of the expense as well — and they do.”
The sheriff suggested schools consider replacing anti-bullying with enhanced safety programs. “It can’t be local and county governments providing security,” Mikesell said. “Quite honestly, we’ve had active shooting events in the county that had nothing to do with schools.”
Deisler urged the grandmother who spoke out about concerns about her grandchildren to express her concerns to the school district.
In addition to training to deal with active shooters, police and sheriff’s departments are working together to counter the effects of the deadly drug fentanyl on the county. “We’re going to have a few initiatives coming up on that,” Deisler said. “We want to get ahead of the curve.”
At a time when the city is experiencing a severe drought and a constant risk of catastrophic fires, resident Mike Nakai expressed concern about the issue. In response, Deisler highlighted the quick response of the Northeast Teller County Fire Protection District and other area fire departments to the recent Mills Ranch fire. “It’s a very comforting feeling for someone in my position,” he said. “Because there’s nothing they let down. Not one.”
The second Pledge Forum will be held July 13 at 6 p.m. at the Woodland Park Police Department, 911 Tamarac Parkway. The speaker will be Teller County Victims’ Attorney Erika Vida.
“I like the synergy we are creating here at the moment. You can just feel the connection, the buzz in the air,” said Thom Seehafer, owner of Kenpro Karate of Woodland Park and founder of the Colorado Phoenix Project.