Bristol Warren schools and cops prepare for the worst

By Kristen Ray
Posted 1/9/20

Pop, pop, pop! The sounds of the .22-caliber blank gun rang throughout Rockwell Elementary School, as volunteers from the Bristol Police Department, posing as ‘bad guys,’ stormed the …

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Bristol Warren schools and cops prepare for the worst


Pop, pop, pop! The sounds of the .22-caliber blank gun rang throughout Rockwell Elementary School, as volunteers from the Bristol Police Department, posing as ‘bad guys,’ stormed the hallways. As they burst into the administrative offices and banged down the doorways, teachers and staff did their best to listen to the advice Lt. Steven St. Pierre had just given them only a few moments ago:

“React the way you would normally react. Follow the actual plan that you have.”

It was just one of many active shooter exercises police completed throughout the Bristol Warren Regional School District over a two-day period last Thursday and Friday, Jan. 2 and 3, as they worked together to prepare staff for what to do in case of the worst scenarios, hoping to keep as many students as possible safe.

While students remained on holiday vacation, teachers at all six schools reported to work on those days, ready to participate in the training — the first of more to come, according to Superintendent Jonathan Brice.

“Unfortunately, the times in which we live require schools to prepare for events that we previously never had to confront, including the threat of active shooters on campus,” he said.

Training, then simulating

As they went school-by-school around the district, Lt. St. Pierre and School Resource Officer Keith Medeiros reviewed individual strategies specific to each building before sending teachers and staff on their way, back to where they would normally be before beginning the active shooter scenarios. Some went back to their classrooms; others took off to head toward the cafeteria. All felt normal until the sounds of simulated gunfire began to go off.

“We don’t expect you guys to come every day into school to think about these things,” said Officer Medeiros to the staff at Rockwell. “But being complacent … this can’t be a thing anymore.”

From multiple gunmen entering the school, to taking hold of a hostage, to targeting a crowded gymnasium, police ran through a variety of possible situations, forcing teachers to make quick decisions about the best options for safety. Some reported their suspicions to the main office; others made their escape out of the building. Not only did the exercises provide a baseline for what teachers and staff could expect in a real-life situation, it also provided a starting point for the police department to know what does and does not work in each building.

An ongoing partnership

While similar trainings are expected to occur more often, Officer Medeiros also encouraged teachers and staff, in the meantime, to relay any individual concerns they may have in their building to their principal. That way, they can then be forwarded to Mr. Brice and reviewed with the police department during their regular school safety assessment meetings.

“There’s a huge commitment by the BPD to partner with you to make this community safe,” Chief of Police Kevin Lynch told the Rockwell team.

Though the police department may try to provide as many tools as it can to help keep schools safe, Patrol Commander Scott McNally said that, at the end of the day, it ultimately comes down to teachers and staff to use their best judgement in the event of an active shooter situation.

“There is no real solid way … to not allow this to happen,” he said. “It could happen, and if it does, be prepared.”

2023 by East Bay Media Group

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.