PURCHASE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – One week after announcing his “Safer Communities” initiative, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino held the first school safety symposium aimed at bringing school officials and law enforcement together.
Astorino said the aim is to create stronger bonds between the two sides since they would need to work together in the event of an active shooter situation at a school. But much of the focus was also on balancing efforts in mental health care with school violence prevention efforts.
Former NYPD Commissioner William Bratton was tapped by Astorino to speak at the School Safety Symposium at SUNY Purchase. Bratton said law enforcement is on an accelerated learning curve following the shooting rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. that left 26 students and educators dead.
“The idea of a collaboration between all agencies – police, mental health, school officials – so that one can advise the other,” Bratton told WCBS 880’s Paul Murnane.
In addition to better collaboration, Astorino said the initiative is aimed at enhancing mental health efforts.
Astorino said time and again, mass shootings have been followed by revelations that there were clear warning signs.
“Unless we take those warning signs as real and deal with it, we’re going to have these continuously,” said Astorino. “It’s a delicate balance though.”
When asked about concerns that the mentally ill might be ostracized as a result of the stronger security efforts, Bratton said he sees safety in numbers.
“How do you do it in a way that you increase awareness, you increase intervention where appropriate, but you don’t continually do it in a way that increases fear or devolves into a witch hunt,” Bratton said.
Astorino added that agencies cannot exist, as he put it, in individual silos.
“This is the balance. The individual liberties, the parents’ rights, the students’ rights,” Astornio said.
Bratton added the response to Sandy Hook will be decided town by town.
Bratton served as the city’s top cop from 1994 to 1996.
The symposium will be followed by a community violence prevention forum focusing on mental health on April 9 at the Westchester County Center.
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