HILLSDALE — The Hillsdale City Police Department is taking a proactive approach to preparing for the possibility of an active shooter locally.
“The world is changing in front of us,” Mayor Adam Stockford said. “We’re taking proactive measures for things that are unlikely to happen, but are absolutely possible. And that’s credit to Chief (Scott) Hephner’s preparedness. We don’t want to be the city on the television saying ‘we didn’t think it would happen here.’”
Locally, at the end of the 2021-22 school year, a number of copycat threats were made by students at various school districts throughout the county following a school shooting in Oxford, Michigan.
Law enforcement officers investigated the threats — many of which were simple notes written on bathroom walls and lockers — and the Hillsdale County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office charged the culprits with felony-level criminal charges in the county’s juvenile courts.
Although many of the threats made in 2021-22 were vague with unknown intent, Hillsdale County has had one incident that came close to fruition.
On March 14, 2018, a handgun and “destructive device” were discovered in a middle school student’s locker at Pittsford Middle School prompting a heavy police response which included bomb sniffing dogs and a school evacuation.
Since then, school districts and law enforcement agencies have been working more closely, sometimes hand in hand, to evolve safety protocols with the latest best business practices.
Jonesville Community Schools have hired a private consulting firm to perform a review of the school district’s security protocols and provide an assessment for how the district can make improvements.
On Sept. 19, the Hillsdale City Council approved the purchase of rifle rated ballistic shields and accessories for responding to acts of violence and incidents involving the threats of weapons in the amount of $31,655.
The funding will come from the city’s public safety equipment millage and the expense does not affect future known purchases from the fund, Police and Fire Chief Scott Hephner said.
Hephner said his department has reviewed after action reports out of the Uvalde, Texas school shooting earlier this year and is using that information to evolve their response strategy.
He said the equipment being purchased is something the department was lacking, but he declined to further describe what it was in order to keep the department’s response strategies and protocols confidential.
The additional equipment will benefit more then just the city of Hillsdale, Hephner added, noting mutual aid agreements with other jurisdictions in Hillsdale County where law enforcement numbers have dwindled over the years due to attrition and budget cuts.
In an earlier interview, Hephner said his officers would take an offensive approach when responding to an active shooter situation locally and the department has already purchased external plate carriers and ballistic helmets for its officers.
The department added “Stop the Bleed” kits to its patrol vehicles and pre-hospital emergency medicine agencies such as Reading Emergency Unit have added additional stocks of trauma-specific equipment such as tourniquets and quit clot gauze.
This article originally appeared on Hillsdale Daily News: City police to purchase additional active shooter response equipment