In the aftermath of the unfathomable tragedy in Connecticut last week I felt it was appropriate and important for me as Sheriff to offer some thoughts.
What happened on Friday was a wake-up call that rung loud and clear throughout our country and county that what happened in the placid community of Newtown can happen anywhere. The fact that the target of the attack was an elementary school with very young children makes the reality even more stark.
Years ago in the aftermath of Columbine and other school shootings the Clermont County law enforcement community came together as one to address this perplexing issue. We trained as a ‘team’ to hone tactics that were recommended for responding to school shootings. Also, through monthly meetings of the Clermont County Police Chiefs and Sheriff Association we discuss critical issues and problems facing our community. We will continue to do so and after the horrific event of last week will re-focus upon school safety as a top priority.
I will personally do whatever I can to facilitate this process and in collaboration with other county law enforcement executives and our dedicated troops we will leave no stone unturned.
We need your help. In a number of past tragedies involving school shootings there was a preview of what was coming. Stray comments, text and e-mail messages, journal entries, Facebook posts and other communications contained indicators of the approaching storm. It, therefore, behooves everyone of us to keep our eyes and ears open to the written and spoken words of those around us. If anything is heard or seen that raises a red flag take action immediately. Report your concerns to a trusted loved one, school official, or law enforcement. Better safe than sorry is clearly applicable here. In Clermont County the Sheriff’s Office has a 24/7 anonymous tip phone line (513) 625-2806. Individuals can call at anytime of the day or night and leave a message. Please use this tool if you have any concerns about what you see or hear, and if you do so leave as many details as possible so that the matter can be properly investigated.
To parents, stay connected with your children, and particularly be vigilant regarding their behavior as they become teenagers. That chapter of life can be overwhelming for our youngsters and in most school shooting incidents the perpetrators have been teenagers or young adults struggling with mental health or emotional challenges. Some of the plans and logistics of school tragedies have been conceived at home, in the bedrooms and on the computers of the young perpetrators. Sadly more than once, evidence of this has been discovered only after the carnage has occurred.
For our teachers, you have a difficult and often thankless task today. Many students spend more time in contact with you in their lives than they do with parents and families. That puts you in a position to observe and perceive behavior than is troubling and potentially destructive. Remain alert for this and if a potential problem is seen, heard, or suspected report it promptly to school or law enforcement officials.
Finally to our young citizens – you are facing challenges and stressors in your development and passage into adulthood that can be very unsettling. Yet, there are many around you, including those in the law enforcement community, that stand ready, willing, and able to help you navigate the storm.
If you feel you are alone, adrift, or sinking talk to someone. If you have a friend who you see in distress or floundering do something to help them, if not on your own, through somebody else.
The late Martin Luther King once said, “We must all live as brothers or will perish as fools.” The tragedy of last week truly brings home the fact that we must strive to be our brother’s keepers and of all our responsibilities and priorities in life this is of tantamount importance.
Sheriff A.J. “Tim” Rodenberg is the Clermont County Sheriff.