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Guest column: We must unite to prevent tragedies
Valone WEB
Lt. Dennis Valone - photo by For the Forsyth County News

By Dennis Valone

Georgia Tactical Officers Association

On Dec. 14, 2012 our country was changed forever, as was my life as a husband, a father and a police officer. The Sandy Hook Elementary School incident hit close to home for me, as I have a grade-schooler and my wife is a teacher.

For several days after the incident, I kept asking myself, “When will all the political rhetoric stop about guns, security and mental health, and the action begin?”  While all theses things have an immediate feel good agenda, what steps will be taken to actually stop or negate further violence?  

It is time to stop trying to figure out ‘whom’ or ‘what’ is to blame, and time to start addressing these incidents and preparing for them as a community.  Many of you may read this and think, “That is not my responsibility.  Leave it to the first responders and politicians to solve!”  But let’s really look at who our first responders are.

How about our school administrators, teachers, janitors, and coaches? Why are we not training them to be prepared to fight for the children?

Many heroic stories came out of the Sandy Hook situation for ‘those in the moment,’ such as school personnel trying to stop the threat, or running through the hallways alerting all present of the threat. How many lives could have been saved if those individuals had been properly trained to respond to an active threat? What if they were mentally and physically empowered, through training, to strategically fight violence with violence?  

Most school systems have ‘somewhat’ of a plan in place for active threat situations. Unfortunately, these plans are rarely tested in training and are not constantly evaluated. Depending on a locked classroom door, while hiding in the closet, may not be the best option. If you look at some of the survivors of Sandy Hook, many of them ran away from the school, and were unharmed.

We as a society are afraid to really address the problem for the sake of political correctness. We unfortunately live in a society that is violent at times, and no matter how many gun laws or mental health laws are created, these types of events will not stop. We must learn to fight back when, and if, necessary.

We must set long term goals on how to deal with these tragic situations and not just for public safety and school personnel. We also need to train parents in what is expected of them, such as a focus on prevention, by learning what ‘cues’ to look for in children and to whom they would report a potential problem.

What do we need parents to do if they respond to an incident at their child’s school? How about the media? Instead of rushing to the scene with paper in hand and video cameras rolling in order to “get the scoop” why don’t they help organize the incoming parents, or help comfort a child? Why does the media insist on sensationalizing the incident and the murderer?  

Do you remember when you were growing up and all the parents in the neighborhood looked after all of the kids on the block and not just their own?  We need to get back to that mentality and take ownership of this problem as a community! Let’s all stand together regardless of race, ethnicity, genderh or political beliefs and fight together to protect our most precious resource … our children.  

Forsyth County resident Dennis Valone is a lieutenant in uniform patrol for the Alpharetta Police Department. He also serves as the president of the Georgia Tactical Officers Association. He has been in public safety for 18 years; six years as a paramedic and 12 years as a law enforcement officer. Valone holds a bachelor’s in management and is a graduate of the Northwestern University School of Police Staff and Command. His wife is a Forsyth County school teacher.