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Stow -- Embarking on an evaluation of how Stow and Munroe Falls' police departments could better collaborate to offer security in the two cities and grant options to fund threat-assessment training sessions were among topics discussed at the Feb. 21 meeting of Stow Mayor Sara Drew's School Safety Task Force.
On the heels of its community-engagement survey that launched Feb. 13, the task force's third meeting, which lasted approximately 30 minutes and drew an audience of three journalists and just one resident, was more routine as task force members discussed predominantly ongoing business.
Drew said the group's SurveyMonkey questionnaire (which can be found at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/BR3FBJN) designed to gauge the pulse of what residents in Stow and Munroe Falls feel are the greatest threats to security and how those can be addressed, has acquired several hundred responses so far.
With the survey going in to what may likely be its final week, though, Drew re-emphasized the importance of residents sharing their feedback.
"We have gotten, in a short amount of time, several hundred responses, and to me that's really encouraging that both communities are very engaged," Drew said, adding that respondents are split well between Stow and Munroe Falls.
She said the survey will likely remain live for about another week, reiterating the task force's goal of presenting some possible security solutions to Stow and Munroe Falls City Councils by the end of March.
"If folks haven't voted yet, please do that," Drew said. "It's very important."
Task force member Rick Myers, Munroe Falls police chief, said he is planning to apply for some $30,000 in grant money through the Summit County Emergency Management Agency that would be used for threat-assessment training for police, school staffs and other individuals.
"That specifically relates to threat assessments by schools, teachers, principals, police officers, administrators -- anybody involved in the school environment," Myers said. "If a student is exhibiting behavior, which could be viewed as perhaps 'at-risk,' then the training targets those kinds of behaviors and allows the person to make a decision ... and see how we can handle a particular situation."
Myers said the idea of threat-assessment training came out of a late January presentation to the task force by Stow psychologist Dr. Alfred Grzegorek, who has been dubbed an honorary task-force member.
Myers said his "vision" is to possibly include all of Summit County in some training sessions with trainings that could apply to all public institutions and possibly be conducted at a venue in one of the area's neighboring universities.
"In my discussion with Dr. Grzegorek, we could even expand this into workplace kinds of things," Myers said. "There are many crossovers to which this applies."
Drew noted that another area being explored is the idea of collaborating some services between the Stow and Munroe Falls police departments -- something Munroe Falls Mayor Frank Larson said he's also behind.
"I think it's prudent we start to take a look at how the two cities' police departments can better work together or better collaborate to provide services across the two communities," Drew said.
"I don't know that any of us have a specific road map of how that's going to happen or where it might take us, but I do think that some of the feedback that we've gotten as part of this committee and from the communities is that anything we can do to collaborate that makes us safer, more efficient, more cost efficient, more effective is something that people want us to explore. So we are going to set up some times to start those conversations and we'll be reporting to the task force and also the community at large about what kind of recommendations or conclusions we might draw."
Larson agreed, echoing the prudence of such an evaluation.
"There are just a lot of questions that have to be answered, should be answered, and we want to be upfront with our board," said Larson. "I know rumors are already out there, and we have no idea, no forgone conclusion, no idea where this is going to end up. But I think it deserves the due diligence to look at every aspect."
The task force is slated to meet next at 5 p.m. March 7 in Stow City Council Chambers.
At that meeting, Drew said the group will decide if meeting later in the day for the following meeting might help draw a larger audience.
Task force member David Licate, an associate professor in the University of Akron's Department of Public Service Technology, is also expected to give a brief presentation in conjunction with school officials on best practices used in other states and public institutions for security and safety trainings.
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