School officials assure town their student safety efforts are working

Friday, April 6, 2018 0 Comments


The police chief for Miami-Dade County Public Schools ensured Miami Lakes council members that a school resource officer will be placed at each public school by next year to ensure the safety of students in the wake of the Stoneman Douglas High shooting massacre that took the lives of 17 students and teachers.

Police Chief Ian Moffett also told the town’s elected voices that his department investigates all social media and personal threats among students, and monitors school cameras to stop any imminent crisis.        

With $400 million of state money for all Florida public schools, Moffett said his department can beef up security to shield more than 10,000 students at the town’s schools, but the 100 school resource officers won’t finish their training, including dealing with school shootings and mental health issues, through the police academy until next year.  

“The proper training takes time,” Moffett said at the April 3 Town Council meeting. “It takes 6 to 12 months to hire, train and deploy the officers. The town can help us with its schools until we get our officers there.”

The gap left Miami Lakes reassigning two of its own police officers at Miami Lakes K-8 Center and Bob Graham Education Center, the two schools without police protection for 3,000 students for $35,000 until the end of the school year. 

The town is using the police overtime budget for the two officers.

However, Miami Lakes’ Police Commander Javier Ruiz said the officers at the two schools for five to seven hours a day could have an effect on law enforcement services.

He said less officers would be used for bike patrol and community policing, and the town could experience a slight spike in commercial and residential burglaries and traffic infractions.

But Ruiz supports the move as a temporary solution.

“It would affect our ability to police but I fully support putting officers there to do that function,” he said. 

Councilmember Marilyn Ruano, however, was concerned over less police officers fighting crime and offered to move $35,000 from the town’s litigation reserves to the police overtime budget.

“$35,000 is not a lot of money for the safety of 3,000 kids,” she said.

But her idea was rejected.

Councilmember Ceasar Mestre said the long-running lawsuit which former mayor Michael Pizzi filed against the town for attorney fees is escalating.

“I’m hesitant to take money from the litigation reserves at this point,” he said. 

Councilmember Nelson Rodriguez said the Northwest Police District can assist the town if there’s a shortage of officers to respond to emergencies. 

“We would be covered,” he said. 

Since the Parkland shooting massacre in February, area residents have been scrambling for solutions to protect their kids while they are learning in school.

North Region Superintendent Jose Bueno told council members the school district added extra security measures to enhance their safety.

He said students, teachers and administrators are now required to wear identification badges to make sure they belong on school grounds, and limit access to the facilities following dismissal time.

“The steps we are taking we didn’t do in the past,” he said.   

Bueno said threats that are made among students are reported to schools police and Moffett and his officers subsequently investigate the perils to determine if they warrant criminal charges.  

“Each threat made at our schools channels over to the police chief and the officers do what they have to do,” Bueno said.

Moffett, a police officer for more than 25 years, said after school treats are reported to his department, he collaborates with Miami-Dade police, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security and obtains search warrants to enter a students’ home as part of the probe.

He said the proactive approach and resources can stop any threats from occurring.

“Every single threat, we follow up on no matter if it’s day or at night,” he said. “The secret to success is the follow-up the next day.” 

Reportedly, several school treats were made in the town but Moffett didn’t want to elaborate since they are still under investigation.

Moffett said he’s seeking the right school resource officers to place at the schools.

Part of their duties include mental health evaluation, counseling and educating students, and building a relationship with their parents as well.

“Being in the classrooms, they tell kids what to do and what not to do,” he said.

Councilmember Luis Collazo, who attended the schools police strategic mapping and mental health meetings, said he’s impressed over the district’s plan to prevent threats from occurring.

“I’m convinced you’re taking care of your customers,” he said.

In other Town Council news:

• Council members gave their initial approval for an ordinance to allow the Town Manager Selection Committee more flexibility in their decision-making process in narrowing their list to seven applicants for lawmakers to consider for the job.

• Lawmakers approved a resolution for a proposed charter amendment for special elections to coincide during the town’s general elections instead of the county’s general elections.

When former Vice Mayor Tony Lama resigned to take on a new job out of town, Mayor Manny Cid and council members appointed Ruano to fill his seat until the county’s next general election in August.

Ruano is running for the seat in August but residents’ approval for the charter change would place any special election following a vacancy on the Town Council in November.

So far, Ruano is the only candidate for Seat 3. 

• Council members approved a resolution for a Memorandum of Agreement with the Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM) to utilize the AlertFlorida notification system provided by FDEM to transmit alerts, warnings and other authorized public safety messaging to residents, businesses and visitors located in the town at no cost.

• Council members approved a resolution to amend the current budget by allocating funds for the West Lakes Reforestation Project Phase II ($100,000); appropriate additional funds for the design of N.W. 146 Street and 159 Street underpasses ($185,000); and funding for removing hazardous trees and re-sodding at pocket parks ($115,000).

• Lawmakers approved a resolution to accept the supplemental award of funds from FDOT, authorizing the town manager to execute the Local Agency Program Supplemental Agreement between the two entities for the Safe Routes to School Miami Lakes K-8 Center school program.

• Council members approved a resolution instructing the town manager to execute a contract with Star Paving Corp. for the Safe Routes to School Construction project in an amount not to exceed $620,000.

• Council members approved a resolution for the town manager to award a contract to Bermello Ajamil and Partners to design blueprints for Miami Lakes Optimist Park for an estimated $470,000.

The project is part of the renovation of the park which is included in the town’s master plan for parks and recreation.

• Lawmakers approved a resolution to change the town’s Neighborhood Matching Grant program which would allow bike racks as an eligible project.

• Council members approved Ruano’s proposal for a school safety town hall meeting to discuss keeping students, teachers and administrators safe from gun violence.

• Council members approved Vice Mayor Frank Mingo’s proposal, called One for One Regulation Reduction, to request a 90-day freeze on any new regulation before it goes into effect, giving town staff the opportunity to create a list of recommendations of obsolete or over burdensome regulations.

• Council members approved Mingo’s proposal to review and update the town’s employee discrimination and harassment policy to prevent sexual harassment in the work place through strong policy and training.

• Town Manager Alex Rey said Miami Lakes taking over the special taxing districts from the county poses a problem for Loch Lomond.

Due to the county’s miscalculations of fees for the guard gate district, Miami Lakes owes Miami-Dade about $50,000 if they want to proceed to regulate the district.

Council members refused to pay the county since they blame the officials for the mistake. 

To try to solve the problem, Rey said the residents changed to a less expensive vendor which would generate a savings of $20,000 starting next year to pay off the debt.

He said the town plans to look at the numbers from 2015 to determine if they are accurate.


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