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Tucson-area police departments helping schools prepare for active shooters

Pima County Sheriff Chris Nanos speaks in front of the chiefs of several area law enforcement agencies to address coordinating emergency response to active shooter incidents at a news conference at the Pima County Sheriff’s Department. From left, University of Arizona Police Chief Paula Balafas, Pima Community College Police Chief Michelle Nieuwenhuis, Oro Valley Police Chief Kara Riley, Tucson Police Chief Chad Kasmar, Pima County Sheriff Chris Nanos, Sahuarita Police Chief John Noland, South Tucson Police Chief Danny Denogean and Marana Police Chief Reuben Nunez.

Area law enforcement departments are working together to ensure that they are prepared to face active shooter incidents as efficiently as possible, starting with schools in Pima County.

On Wednesday, Sheriff Chris Nanos along with law enforcement leaders from Tucson, Oro Valley, Marana, Sahuarita, the University of Arizona, Pima Community College and South Tucson spoke about the importance of collaboration and communication when it comes to responding to active shooter incidents.

“This is not about saving lives in minutes; every second matters,” Nanos said at a news conference held by representatives of the Pima Regional Critical Incident Team. “We need to get a very robust, coordinated response, and that takes communication, at the leadership all the way to those in our dispatch center so that they can work together.”

In addition to communication, law enforcement leaders are also focused on building relationships with schools around the county. Nanos stressed the importance of partnering with the school boards, saying he had spoken to Dustin Williams, the Pima County School superintendent, and hopes to speak with Gabriel Trujillo, the Tucson Unified School District superintendent, soon.

“Partnerships need to be built on the level of trust and public safety first, particularly when you’re talking to schools, Nanos said. “The vulnerable little ones, they need our help, and they need us to work together. The partnership doesn’t just stop there; it’s also a partnership with our students and with their families.”

Nanos said they have school resource officers on campus to help strengthen relationships with students in classrooms, giving an example about how an SRO found a threat on social media recently and was able to provide the student with help.

Law enforcement have also been holding active shooter trainings around Pima County for school employees. The Sahuarita Police Department will be holding three different active shooter training sessions this summer for schools, and Pima County has been offering active training drills for teachers during which they can learn how to deal with a gunshot wound.

Law enforcement leaders are also urging parents to talk to their children this summer about gun safety and focus on prevention.

“Pay attention to what they are doing on their cellphones, what they are doing on their gaming stations, how they are interacting and how they are communicating with each other,” Tucson Police Chief Chad Kasmar said. “Everyone’s demeanor changed post pandemic, and fuses are shorter, so you have to have conversations with your kids.”

Overall, Nanos hopes to build better partnerships built on common sense and not on political rhetoric by having agencies respond to the incidents in a timely manner, communicate with each other and come together to collaborate on preventive measures by partnering with mental help providers.

“I do not ever want to see one of our officers or deputies to show up and be outgunned and that’s the reality today,” Nanos said. “Bottom line is we recognize that we can’t wait for the politics. We have to do.”

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