School Committee Implores Haverhill Police to Advance Active Shooter Protocols

Haverhill Police Chief Alan R. DeNaro addresses the School Committee in 2018 with Haverhill Police Officer Scott Ziminski. (WHAV News file photograph.)

Haverhill Police Chief Alan R. DeNaro addresses the School Committee on active shooter safety protocols during the September 14 meeting. (WHAV News photograph)

Haverhill Public Schools are on the way to becoming safer thanks to the School Committee’s decision to develop a subcommittee that maintains a direct line to the Haverhill Police Department.

At Thursday’s School Committee meeting, Police Chief Alan R. DeNaro prioritized a discussion on the committee, temporarily shirking his North Andover gas-related fire aid duties to speak to members. He was invited to speak, along with Haverhill Police Officer Scott Ziminski, by Committeeman Rich Rosa.

DeNaro agreed with Committeeman Scott W. Wood Jr.’s motion to create a group to work with Superintendent Margaret Marotta and the police department to stay up-to-date on school safety protocols. DeNaro told WHAV he applauded their desire to expedite training to city students.

“The School Department understands there is a deficiency in the safety protocols involving active shooters and understanding that there may be a deficiency in some of the external safety measures in schools,” he said. “They are going to decide on how they want to proceed in making both of those better. We’re here to assist them.”

As some Committee members squabbled over the politics behind the formation of a subcommittee, Haverhill High student representative Katherine Hubbard drove the point home from a student’s perspective. Recounting training received after the Parkland, Fla., school shooting, Hubbard said students dismissed current advice as “not efficient enough.”

That will soon change, said Wood.

“This would allow us to have a line to the Chief to talk about the changes they’re seeing that we have to bring up to the superintendent. The idea is to keep everything flowing so we’re aware of what’s going on in the schools related to security,” reasoned Wood. “We have a committee for everything under the sun, so I don’t think it’s a big deal. If kids aren’t safe, they can’t learn.”

Vowing to make “dramatic changes” to keep Haverhill ahead of the school safety curve, DeNaro will now work alongside Wood and Gail Sullivan as committee members. First up is finding a way to fund additional walkie-talkie radios and explore the adoption of a ‘panic button-’style app called Rave, that directs police to incidents with GPS software.

Summed up DeNaro: “Obviously ‘arrest first’ is not a good solution, so we need to make sure we do things right, especially when it comes to children. The impacts are lasting.”