Oregon lawmakers weigh safety plan bill in case of school shooting

Oregon lawmakers weigh safety plan bill in case of school shooting »Play Video
The Beaverton School District already has several manuals, books and emergency plans. It is also the only district that has a sworn police officer as the head of public safety.

SALEM, Ore. -- State lawmakers are considering a bill that would require a safety plan at all Oregon schools in the event of a school shooting.

House Bill 4087, which was the subject of a public hearing Tuesday before the House Committee on Veterans and Emergency Services, would establish a task force of police, lawmakers and government officials to come up with a safety plan for each school to be better prepared in the event of a critical incident.

"Nationally as well as in Oregon, school shootings continue to be of great concern," Kevin Campbell said, the executive director of the Oregon Association Chiefs of Police. "We want to continue to have the conversation all the time about what it means to be better prepared."

In fact, some of the testimony from law enforcement Tuesday focused on lessons learned from national shootings as well as those closer to home, like the shooting at the Clackamas Town Center in December 2012.

The center pieces of the bill call for a 13-member task force on school safety as well as a database of school floor plans from across the state, which would be maintained by the Oregon State Police (OSP).

According to a report citing the fiscal impact of the proposed legislation, the task force is charged with "developing a request for proposals for hiring a vendor to create an Internet accessible database of floor plans for all schools within the state" as well as "developing, in consultation with the Department of Public Safety Standards and Training, coordinated statewide school safety and incident response training for first responders and school administration officials."

Supporters of the bill believe if emergency responders have access to any district map in the state, then they cut down response times by knowing exactly where to go in the event of an emergency.

"Let's say (the shooting) happens in a small town and police respond from jurisdictions all over the place. It's no use to them to come into a place and they have no access to maps, to the way things are being set up," Campbell said.

According to the bill, the task force members would include the superintendent of state police, the director of the Department of Public Safety Standards and Training, Gov. John Kitzhaber's public safety policy adviser, the governor's education policy adviser, and a member of the Oregon House and Senate as well as seven law enforcement officials and educators appointed by the governor.

Kevin Sutherland, the public safety director for Beaverton School District said "The strongest thing that I think we can do is having conversations and having common language, and if we can identify problems and work on them, we're a little bit ahead of the curve. If we're talking about it, then we're not caught by surprise."

In addition to heading up Beaverton School District's safety policies and emergency procedures, Sutherland is also a police officer. Sutherland showed the On Your Side Investigators several safety manuals, books, and a few of the emergency plans Tuesday.

"We're the only school district in the state of Oregon that's got a sworn police officer as the head
of public safety so that's kind of a unique thing," he said.

Sutherland said that distinction has helped foster a closer and more communicative working relationship with the Beaverton Police Department, nearby Washington County Sheriff's Office and Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue.

However, not all districts are as prepared for an emergency as Beaverton. House Bill 4087 is trying to close that gap and make sure all districts are on the same page, both with resources and preparation for an emergency.

"I think it's going to drive us toward more common language," Sutherland said. "If we're going to do a 'lock out' or a 'lock down' or a 'lock in', it gets everyone on the same page, so whatever jurisdiction you go to and those responders come, the responders know what they're going to face."

The bill would also mandate statewide training for school staffers, according to the measure.

"Providing that layer of safety and security for people and it really puts it at the forefront of everyone's mind," Sutherland said.

The bill appropriates an unspecified amount of the General Fund to the OSP to support the task force. Campbell told KATU the database would cost roughly $4 million. If the bill passes, he said the task force could start right away but said the money for the database likely wouldn't be available until 2015.