Dallas ISD Police Lt. Terri Thomas said that while officers are only a phone call away, the first line of defense begins with each individual.
“The No. 1 person to keep you safe is yourself,” Thomas said. “Be situationally aware.”
Inside schools and buildings, that means things like making sure the right staff members have radios and know how to use them. Officer Derrick Anderson said that district police can hear all the chatter on campus radios, so talking about lunch should be relegated to brief code words. Also, he said radios need to be on each wing and on each floor of a building.
Anderson told staff to not leave keys or cell phones on desks. Because desks belongs to the school district, unsecured personal items left on or in them are considered as abandoned. That means anyone – including a student – could take the items possibly without legal repercussions.
Prevention is important in the parking lot, too, he said. Tailgates and third-row seats in large SUVs are a hot theft item, he said, so backing vehicles up to a wall can prevent a would-be thief from having access to them. Patrol officers are also available to escort employees to their cars at night.
Anderson cautioned against believing more crime happens in Dallas ISD, he said, but that crime happens everywhere.
“We have a great product in Dallas ISD,” he said. “We don’t want you to lose faith and hope. There are great things going on.”
Possibly the best way to be safe on campus is to ensure all staff and students are visibly wearing their ID badges. The badges immediately identify a person as someone who is supposed to be on campus. Anderson said when officers respond to an emergency at a school, the badge is crucial in sorting out what is going on.
“If I come onto your campus and you don’t have one of these on, guess where you are? You’re on the on the ground,” he said. The key is starting off each day focused on screening everyone who comes on campus and ensuring they have their badges. “That’s what keeps you safe. If you can win the morning, you can win the day when it comes to safety.”
Officer Victoria Tsalikis encouraged everyone to take lockdown drills seriously, which hasn’t always been the case.
“When we say you can’t come out of the room, don’t come out of the room,” she said. “We don’t know who the threat is, and you look like the threat when you’re walking the hallways.
Safety and security is a team effort.
“Help us help you keep your school safe,” Anderson said. “You are in charge of a lot of lives.”