The Dover Police Department has stepped up patrols this week within local schools in the wake of the tragedy in which 20 children and six adults were killed by a gunman in Newtown, Conn. Friday.
"As a precautionary measure, and after speaking with Police Chief James Hosfelt, we felt it would be in everyone's best interest to increase patrols," Dover Public Affairs & Emergency Management Coordinator Kay Dietz-Sass said. "We don't want parents to panic when coming to the schools and seeing police, we want them to feel a little more at ease dropping their children off."
Dietz-Sass called the Connecticut murders a "senseless tragedy."
Dover Police Captain Tim Stump said an officer had been assigned to each school in the city and would continue those assignments for a while.
"The purpose of our high visibility is hopefully to ease concerns for everyone," Stump said. "We have had a few calls from parents inquiring as to our presence. I believe most were comforted by the fact that officers were present."
Usually, only Dover High School and Central Middle School have so called school resource officers, Capital Superintendent Dr. Michael Thomas said. In addition, William Henry usually has a third Dover Police officer present working with REACH program, he said. In addition, many of Capital's schools reviewed their school safety and emergency procedures with staff and students.
Capital School District and Dover Police Department have worked together for many years to place school resource officers in some of the schools, Mayor Carleton Carey said.
"We want to make everyone aware that we are doing what we can as a city to aid in their enforcement efforts as well," Carey said.
Dover Police received nothing but positive responses to the increased police presence in schools, Stump said.
"We received a message from one parent who told us that her first grade daughter, understandably upset over recent events, was given a sense of security when she saw the officer at her school," he said. "If it helps to make that little girl feel better, then it makes us feel better."
The increased police presence on Monday was welcomed by Capital educators, including William Henry Principal Tory Giddens and Booker T. Washington Principal Dale K. Brown.
"We appreciated having them there this morning," Giddens said during the inaugural "Coffee With A Cop" event held at McDonalds at 1788 North Dupont Highway.
Brown said his students got to know Sgt. Jack Fortney, the police officer assigned to them on Monday. They found out through some chitchat that Fortney was also the fire chief until recently, Brown said.
Hosfelt credited Master Cpl. Todd Case for first suggesting the idea to increase patrols at schools last Friday evening. Case is the school resource officer assigned to William Henry Middle School.
Page 2 of 2 - 'It is a drain on resources but it is worth it to us," Hosfelt said.
In addition, not one officer complained about the extra duty, Hosfelt said. Officers have been trained to drop by school to say hello to staff or even to just stop in school parking lots to fill out paperwork or take their lunch, he said.
"It's good for them and it's good for us."