The new normal: schools welcome police security team

By Stacy

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- For elementary school students, seeing a police officer in the hallway is not strange.

"It is the new normal. It is something that is going to happen every day for the rest of their lives," Meeting Street Academy's Principal Susan Miller said.

The tragedy of Sandy Hook may have happened in another state, but it hit close to home.

Over the summer, Charleston Police decided to implement a School Security Response Team, where officers are assigned to every private and public school in city limits.

"We've had a lot of progress with getting to know different schools, principals, administrators and their plans should a critical incident happen," said Sgt. Jason Bruder, supervisor for the team.

Miller said her assigned officers had been a welcome presence.

"Knowing we have people who are assigned to our building every day of the week, multiple times throughout the day at various times, it definitely gives us a sense of safety, where we know people are aware of what's happening in the surrounding neighborhoods," Miller said.

But the officers said working with the schools hasn't always gone according to plan; it's been a learning experience for them as well.

"What we realized is we need to be prepared for how we're going to handle it if something does happen, as far as sealing off traffic, detours, where we're going to stage media," Bruder said.

The team has realized each school needs a unique emergency plan. They were working to get those done, he said. He also said having the team has changed how the police department thinks as a whole. Officers who work crimes never considered the impact on local schools, he said. Now, the SSRT is there to primarily think about the ancillary impact on students and schools.

"At SSRT our instinct is, 'What school is in that area?' and if they're close enough to be affected, to get in communication with them to get in code yellow," Bruder said.

The SSRT has six clusters with three officers in each cluster.