OSWEGO COUNTY – It has been nearly a year since the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, that claimed the lives of 17 students and staff members and injured another 17.
In the wake of that tragedy, along with other mass shootings that have dominated the headlines in recent years, the Oswego County Legislature created a special committee to address public safety issues in schools and communities.
The Community Safety Initiative Committee recently held a forum at CiTi BOCES in Mexico to meet with representatives from local emergency, law enforcement, fire, ambulance, school, and municipal offices and organizations.
Oswego County Legislator Terry Wilbur, District 21, chairman of the CSI Committee and chairman of the County Legislature’s Public Safety Committee, opened the forum by introducing the new committee and its mission.
“This forum is an opportunity for us all to come together and share the strategies we’re implementing to ensure public safety,” said Legislator Wilbur. “Our objective here is to open the lines of communication, encourage the sharing of ideas, and build or strengthen partnerships. We all have the same goal, and that is to protect the 122,000 residents of Oswego County.”
Oswego County Sheriff Donald Hilton added, “The best way to protect our community is through prevention. That starts with good communication and making sure that everyone has a seat at the table. All agencies, from law enforcement and fire service to emergency management and first responders, need to coordinate planning and training efforts.”
Onondaga County Assistant District Attorney Jeremy P. Cali was the guest speaker and provided an overview of some of the safety planning activities taking place in the neighboring county.
His presentation showed a timeline of the Onondaga County School Safety Task Force, including its launch in March of last year.
The group was created to address student and teacher training, school grounds safety, threat assessment, and law enforcement.
Subcommittees focused on these topics held a series of public meetings throughout Onondaga County.
They discussed thoughts and concerns about school safety with parents, students and residents to consider establishing new or improving existing safety protocols.
Following Cali’s presentation, the forum was opened for attendees to voice concerns and issues that have come up in their own experiences, to help improve and develop safety protocols.
Inter-agency communication, planning and training were the primary issues expressed.
Participants also conveyed concerns about legislative restrictions that hinder safety planning and emergency responses, and the need to allocate more funding for training.
Other issues included planning for after-hour events; encouraging community involvement by residents, business and church leaders; the need for tailor-made safety plans; and the importance of receiving timely and accurate information during an emergency.
Stewart R. Amell, representing Christopher J. Todd, superintendent of Oswego County CiTi BOCES, said, “We’re very happy to open up this facility for such an important discussion. It is imperative that we continue to move forward by sharing thoughts and ideas; coordinating with our fellow community members to develop workable safety plans; and appealing to our elected representatives for legislative reform and the release of promised funding for school safety.”
For more information about the Community Safety Initiative Committee, contact Legislator Wilbur at [email protected]