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Psychologist Talks Threat Assessment at Stow Safety Task Force

Dr. Alfred Grzegorek spoke at the community safety task force's second meeting Thursday

Preventing school violence via threat assessment teams was the focus of the Stow Safety Task Force Thursday during the group's second meeting.

The task force invited Stow psychologist Dr. Alfred Grzegorek to talk about threat assessment programs, which are designed to watch out for potentially violent individuals and stop them from taking deadly action.

"The entire idea of threat assessment and threat management is to not hurt but to always attempt to help, to protect," he said. "If the critical information needed to tell a threat assessment team of a threat comes fast enough, they can possibly have an intervention with the individual thinking of creating violence and start mental health treatment or some other intervention."

Grzegorek, who is a member of the Police Psychological Services Section of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, summarized the idea of using threat assessment to prevent violence for the task force.

He said the program typically starts with a specially trained police officer, who then reaches out to organizations in the community — schools, businesses and other public groups — to develop teams localized to each entity. Those team members are then taught indicators to watch for and encouraged to share information among the different entities, such as various school buildings.

"I think the threat assessment model is the way to go," Grzegorek said. "As you know, with all the events that have happened … our tendency has been to react to what has happened as opposed to trying to prevent what has happened."

The model is one that's been developed in part by the U.S. Secret Service and other large national security organizations.

David Licate, a member of the safety task force, said he recently conducted walk-throughs of all nine Stow-Munroe Falls Schools buildings with Karen Wright, a member of the task force and Stow board of education member.

"They’re very interested in threat assessment training," Licate said. “I think exploring these multi-disciplinary teams … would be very positive."

The task force also briefly took a look Thursday at potential costs associated with enhanced security in school buildings.

Stow Finance Director John Baranek said the early cost estimates don't include major infrastructure improvements but instead focused on costs for equipping officers and providing training in threat assessment.

"Cost has to be a part of this conversation," Stow Mayor Sara Drew said.

Munroe Falls Mayor Frank Larson suggested developing a tip line residents, school staff and students could call to report potentially violent individuals.

"I think that would probably be one of the easiest, cheapest preventative measures that we could take," Larson said.

Drew also passed out a two-page questionnaire to the task force members that will be posted online some time this month to garner resident feedback on the task force.

The city will issue a press release when the questionnaire is posted online.

The next meeting of the safety task force is set for Feb. 21.

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