The Miami-Dade Schools Police Department (MDSPD) recently held the 2014 School Police Leadership Symposium. The idea behind the Symposium was to bring together a group of individuals with the common goal of seeking the best possible way to safeguard our children. The Symposium was a gathering of criminal justice leaders, researchers, and educators who met to discuss a range of law enforcement topics. Various specialists and subject matter experts presented contemporary leadership principles in order to provide an educational platform for all participants, interchange ideas, and provide updates. The symposium included discussions about “what works,” and offered recommendations based on nationally recognized best practices.
The Leadership Symposium was a rare opportunity to exchange thoughts and beliefs with the sole purpose of protecting innocent lives. The event lasted three days and it involved presentations from different sections of the law enforcement community. Chief James Cervera from Virginia Beach, Virginia led the first day’s presentation with a two part treatise titled: Gettysburg, A Time for Leaders. Chief Cervera’s presentation used the famous Civil War battle and President Lincoln’s unforgettable speech to create a setting where participants would understand the dynamics of accountability.
Dr. Janet Robinson, the former Superintendent of Schools at Newtown, Connecticut was the next day’s presenter and gave her first-hand account of the terrible incident at Sandy Hook Elementary on December 14, 2012. Her presentation put a human face to the crisis and the actions that must be taken when similar situations arise. Dr. Robinson spoke candidly about that fateful day, her actions, and her fears and above all, she offered great tips and ideas as to her mindset during those difficult hours, when information was barely trickling and how she was able to get students, parents and teachers back to a regular schedule shortly after the New Year. Superintendent of Schools Alberto M. Carvalho was present to welcome Dr. Robinson and listen to her remarks. We need to recall that immediately after the Sandy Hook tragedy, Mr. Carvalho was instrumental in creating a Youth Violence Roundtable to help us prevent violence in our schools and communities.
Mike Angelica, a retired Captain from the Miami-Dade Police Department, continued the pace with his presentation on Crisis Leadership, which was designed to provide a comprehensive understanding of the leadership skills needed to perform critical tasks during active shooter incidents. Captain Angelica led participants through illustrations and examples to manage resources and immediate response to on-going violent life threatening situations, where deployment could result in death or great bodily harm. The presentation explained the tactical configuration of law enforcement personnel for immediate rapid deployment during active shooter situations. Captain Angelica also created plans for first arriving officers and supervisors to identify conditions at a critical scene and turning those conditions of chaos into order, uncertainty into predictability, and complexity into simplicity.
The Leadership Symposium achieved its goal of creating a venue to assure that our law enforcement personnel – everyone concerned with the well-being of our youngsters – are prepared so we are never faced with a similar situation as Sandy Hook Elementary or any other similar tragedy. We hope that everyone that participated took this opportunity to network, discuss, and broaden their scope of knowledge in school policing leadership strategies.