Police chiefs advise on school threats, what residents can do

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published December 20, 2021

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MADISON HEIGHTS/HAZEL PARK — The shooting at Oxford High was a grim reminder that school violence can occur close to home. Local police chiefs say that their officers have diligently prepared for active shooter situations — and with the help of the public, such tragedies may be avoided.

Corey Haines, the chief of the Madison Heights Police Department, described a number of measures that his department has undertaken to keep the schools safe.

Each day, officers visit the schools to familiarize themselves with the building layouts, and to interact with the students and staff, building a level of comfort and trust. The police also provide ALICE training at each district, which prepares the schools for active shooter situations. 

The department is also a member of OakTac, part of a mutual aid agreement between all Oakland County police and fire departments. The different departments train so that they can respond to school shootings as a coordinated team. 

“As the chief of police for the city of Madison Heights, I want every parent, grandparent, student, and all of our citizens to know that we take the safety of our residents very seriously,” Haines stated in an email. “Over the past few days (as of Dec. 7), we have received reports of threats to our local schools since the tragic event in Oxford. We have vigorously investigated each and every threat, and will continue to do so to ensure the safety of everyone.

“We have zero tolerance for threats of any kind, whether credible or not,” he said, noting that those who make threats “will be located and prosecuted to the fullest extent by the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office.” 

He also implores parents to listen to their children, and keep apprised of what they’re doing on social media. Any potential threats should be immediately reported for investigation. 

Haines said that red flags include students who are fascinated with firearms and/or previous school shootings; who have access to weapons; who struggle with anger issues, act out or exhibit other signs of mental illness; who act withdrawn or have recently become withdrawn; or who are abusing alcohol and drugs. 

“When in doubt of the seriousness of the potential threat, please err on the side of caution, and report it,” Haines said.

Brian Buchholz, the chief of the Hazel Park Police, said that there have been “many meetings between the city and schools’ administration” since the day of the shooting at Oxford High. He said that the police have maintained a consistent presence around the schools.

“We normally try to be in the area of the schools at the start and end of the school days, with random walk-throughs during the day,” Buchholz said via email. “It always was a priority for us, but it is even more so now.”

But he emphasized that residents also need to do their part by watching for warning signs, reporting them to authorities, and taking care to secure any and all weapons.

“All gun owners must be responsible for their firearms,” Buchholz said. “The children of parents/guardians should not even have the knowledge on how to access guns in the home.”

Parents and guardians should also stress to their children that the threat of violence can result in severe consequences, as well, even if it was made in jest.

“Making threats of violence against the schools can lead to some very stiff penalties, depending on the severity,” Buchholz said. “It has the potential to carry a 20-year prison sentence.

“The burden on law enforcement to investigate is very time-consuming, and they must be investigated until they can be proven not to be credible,” he continued. “It created fear in the whole community and beyond.”

The chief added that any possible threats should be reported to the police and the schools, and can also be reported through OK2SAY, a statewide anonymous reporting program. 

To submit a tip, visit michi gan.gov/ok2say.