Guest opinion: In Rifle school lockout, everyone did right thing
This past Monday, the Rifle Police Department responded to a possible threat at one of Rifle’s elementary schools. An individual had heard another making a possible threat toward the school. This information was shared with a school administrator.
The school administrator, out of caution, put the school on lockout (school activities as usual, but only authorized people allowed to enter building) and called the Rifle Police Department.
The Police Department contacted everyone involved, with full cooperation from everyone, determined what was actually said, the context in which it was said, and determined no threats were made and that there was no danger to the school. It takes some time to sift through information, and once the investigation was complete, the lockout was lifted.
This was a simple case of erring on the side of caution, on the reporting person’s part, the school administrator’s part and the Rifle Police Department’s part. This type of investigation happens whenever something is reported which might harm our students, as it should be. In this case everything was done right.
Unfortunately, in this day and age of instant communications, it is sometimes not that easy. Throughout the day, rumors were circulated through social media, which brought the attention of the local press, which then reported on the incident. I then, as the chief of police, have to weigh the conflicting responsibilities of keeping the public informed with an individual’s rights of privacy.
Many times, the people and organizations involved get criticized for what they do or do not do, and many times this criticism is based on incorrect information that can spread like wildfire. My biggest fear is that because of this, it makes people less inclined to report what they believe might be suspicious. This happened in the San Bernardino massacre case, where a neighbor did not report suspicious activity due to fear of negative feedback.
In our case, what was heard turned out not to be a threat, but the reporting party did exactly the right thing in reporting it. The school district did exactly the right thing in reporting it to us, and we did the right thing on following up. I have subsequently been asked for details about the people involved, and I want to stress that, as there was no threat, everyone involved deserves privacy and respect for doing the right thing. This is how we hope every perceived threat ends – with safe kids, safe staff and a misunderstanding.
We all have a responsibility to keep our schools, kids and the rest of our community safe. The Rifle Police Department will do everything we can to respect the privacy of the individuals involved, while at the same time making sure that everyone is safe. When these situations come up in the future, please seek information from the organizations involved, and take with a grain of salt what you might learn from social media and others.
Thank you to the reporting party and to all those who agreed to be interviewed as part of the process, thank you Re-2, and thank you to the officers who resolved this as quickly as possible.
John Dyer is Rifle’s police chief.
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