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Police Say Town Has Public Safety Plan In Case of School Tragedy

Medfield Police Chief says the town has a plan in place in case of a school tragedy. He also says a kind word can go a long way to stopping a series of events that could ultimately prove harmful.

The Town of Medfield has an emergency response plan in place if anything were to happen such as the tragedy that took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., on Friday; however, when the community would be notified would depend on the situation.

Medfield Chief of Police Robert E. Meaney Jr. said that, in a school emergency, he would work with the Fire Chief and the Superintendent of Schools to immediately respond to the emergency, and he would then have to wait for backup from surrounding communities before he could set up a command post and start disseminating information.

"Medfield is a small place and I would be one of the first responders," said Meaney. "It's way I wear the uniform and carry all the equipment; it's just expected of a police chief in a community of this size." 

Every officer is essential when responding to an emergency situation, Meaney said, noting that emergency response plans changed after the Columbine High School massacre of 1999.

"Before Columbine, basically you would get there, you would decide if it's a conflict situation, you would surround the area, and you would wait for the specially-trained people to go in," he said. "Now, in our case, in Medfield, two maybe three officers would arrive at the school and you would just go into the school and you would go toward where you hear the gunshots and you just really go at it hard and fast and you deal with the situation, you don't wait."

Meaney said, "Down in Newtown, Conn., they probably did a very similar thing then they probably found out relatively quickly that the person was no longer a threat." 

Within a few minutes at Sandy Hook Elementary, the gunman shot , and then himself. 

Meaney said Medfield public safety and school departments have an overall response plan (a copy of which is kept in each police cruiser) in place but each situation remains "very fluid and very dynamic and you have to think on your feet; you have to adjust and make decisions." 

"It's like playing a constant game of chess," he said. "If I do this, how does that affect me three moves from now?" 

Meaney said that situations like Newtown often occur after a series of events that happen in sequence, and it's the hope of Medfield police that their day-to-day actions will remove one of those events from the series and prevent a tragedy.

"What a community can do is try to be as intelligent and as vigilant as you can, and if you can do certain things along the way, that may change an outcome," he said.

"If somebody needs a little help, someone to listen, an outlet, or they need a kind word instead of a harsh look, you never know what that one little act can do," Meaney said. 

A police department's work can have far-reaching -- and unknown -- affects. 

"We may have changed outcomes and we don't even know it because the bad thing never happened," Meaney said.  

"You stop and you do things, you stop and you talk to people, you don't know what that act may have done but it may have pulled that one important thing out of the sequence of events and that bad thing didn't happen," he said.

For example, police pulling over a speeding car with an angry driver could change a series of events that could have been harmful down the road. 

"Maybe that traffic stop just gives them a chance to slow down, figure out why they're angry, then they drive off in a much safer fashion...You just never know what your actions do. You do them based on the idea that it's about safety and about trying to find that one piece and pull it out of sequence," Meaney said. 

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