Kennewick police tell board safe schools a priority

By Ty Beaver, Tri-City HeraldFebruary 14, 2013 

Kennewick Police Chief Ken Hohenberg is another law enforcement official who isn't excited about arming teachers with guns to protect students.

Hohenberg and several other members of the Kennewick police and fire departments spoke with the Kennewick School Board at its meeting Wednesday night to discuss student safety and security.

School board member Ron Mabry asked Hohenberg for his perspective on arming teachers, as some have suggested in the wake of the shooting massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in December.

Such events are "so appalling and people want to react to that," Hohenberg said, but giving everyone guns would be an overreaction. The training to handle and use a firearm safely is extensive even for law enforcement professionals, he added.

"Being a teacher is a full-time job in itself," Hohenberg said.

A bill in the Legislature supported by state Rep. Brad Klippert, R-Kennewick, who also is a Benton County Sheriff's deputy, would allow teachers to be armed while at work. Other law enforcement officials and educators have criticized the legislation.

Hohenberg said Kennewick police have taken measures for years to ensure student safety at schools through preventative programs, placement of school resource officers on campuses, and open communication with teachers, administrators and other community members.

The district also is taking measures of its own to increase school security since the December shooting.

Keith Colee, the district's buildings and grounds manager, did a quick demonstration of how a new networked system controlling cameras, door locks, communications and other technology works in some of the district's newer schools.

The district also plans to install the system in older buildings, though Colee acknowledged that could be a challenge given the aging infrastructure.

-- Ty Beaver: 509-582-1402; tbeaver@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @_tybeaver

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