PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — School security involves thousands of moving pieces, countless organizational thoughts, and one goal; keeping your children safe.
Frank Kitzerow, a veteran law enforcement officer, is the chief for the Palm Beach County School Police Department. He keeps a whiteboard in his conference room. A big one. It is filled with his thoughts—one end to the other. In the middle of that board is the letter “X”. Chief Kitzerow said, “To me, the “X” is the day the unthinkable happens. That’s the day a catastrophic event happens.”
His officers train constantly for active shooter events, and everyone prays that training will never be needed. Kitzerow told me, “If we do our job right we may never arrive at “X”. We spend a great deal of time in the areas of prevention, intervention, and diversion.” Prevention for his team means building bonds and identifying safety worries at every school. Remember, every school now has a permanently assigned police officer on duty, and a big part of that job involves talking with students and understanding their concerns.
Intervention, Kitzerow said, means that once a potential security problem is identified, police are paired with mental health experts to act decisively. He said, “We are out in the middle of the night. We will be knocking on peoples’ doors. You make the threat, we are coming to see you.” Diversion can begin with youth court sanctions or mental health counseling for someone creating problems or deemed a threat to do so. The more serious the concern, the bigger the response.
For all the police resources in place, though, Chief Kitzerow reminds us that school security begins with awareness—at home, at school, in the community.
He concluded, “When people ask me what is school safety-- I’m school safety, you’re school safety, every student, every parent, everyone in this district is school safety.”