'The mistakes that happened in Uvalde will not happen in Stephenville or Erath County.’
The country woke up this morning to news that Uvalde’s school board had fired embattled police chief Pete Arredondo following the May 24 massacre at Robb Elementary.
Arredondo has been accused of making critical mistakes in the mass shooting that left 19 students and two teachers dead, most notably, that he failed to order officers to act sooner.
I spoke with Police Chief Dan Harris and Captain James Gresham with the Stephenville Police Department about the situation on Thursday, and while neither directly criticized Uvalde’s police response, they both made it clear that nothing like that would ever take place in Erath County.
“The men and women of the Stephenville Police Department will always swiftly respond with tactical excellence, top notch professionalism and excellence in leadership,” Chief Harris told Beneath the Surface News. “We will be there first and fast and we will take immediate action to stop evil and save lives.”
WHO’S IN CHARGE?
One of the big questions surrounding law enforcement’s response in Uvalde is who was in charge during the shooting.
In fact, it was a reader who prompted me to ask that question after sending me a message this morning.
“If a school shooting happened here, who would be in charge on scene?” she asked. “It has never made a lick of sense that the school resource officer was in charge among all that brass. Have you asked?”
I hadn’t, so I did.
If the unthinkable ever occurred locally, Captain Gresham outlined the chain of command and who would be responsible for issuing orders.
“It would be the senior person on scene and that would generally be the sergeant who is working that day,” Gresham said. “But as more law enforcement personnel arrive, the incident commander changes as the situation dictates.”
He also explained that the Stephenville Police Department would respond to incidents at schools located inside the city limits, the Erath County Sheriff’s Office would respond to schools in the county, Tarleton PD would respond to incidents on the university’s campus and Dublin PD would respond to schools in Dublin.
“But we have mutual aid agreements and we are all going to respond no matter where something happens,” Gresham said.
TRAINING FOR THE WORST
Parents and students at SISD might have noticed an increased police presence on campuses and surrounding areas since the new school year began, but what they haven’t seen is the massive amount of training officers have taken part in.
“School shootings are always something we think about and train for, but since Uvalde happened, it’s been in the forefront,” Chief Harris said. “The SPD demands excellence and those we serve deserve nothing less.”
During the past couple of months, officers have taken part in school walk-throughs and increased active shooter response training.
“Just last month we had active shooter training at the high school,” Gresham said. “The mistakes that happened in Uvalde will not happen in Stephenville or Erath County.
“We will do everything necessary to protect the lives of our children.”