Mashpee Police Chief Says ‘Logic Is Absent’ From School Response To Fake Gun
By: Geoff Spillane
The discovery of a student in possession of a toy that closely resembled a handgun last week at Mashpee High School has left the town’s top law enforcement official looking for some answers.
On Tuesday afternoon, Mashpee Police Chief Rodney C. Collins sent a letter to the Mashpee School Committee requesting that he be placed on its next meeting agenda to address concerns he has regarding the decision not to call 911 or the police dispatch center after school officials became aware of the fake gun. Chief Collins questioned in the letter whether school officials followed proper emergency notification procedure during the incident.
The next meeting of the school committee is Wednesday, April 25, at 6 PM at the Quashnet School. Chairman Kathy Stanley said yesterday that she accepted Chief Collins's request to be placed on the agenda.
Chief Collins told the Enterprise that he wants to clearly identify a protocol for when the schools should immediately contact the police department, so that the safety of the occupants of a school facility are not subject to unnecessary risk as a result of inappropriate action.
According to Chief Collins’s letter and other accounts, during the time the gun was found on the student last Wednesday morning, a meeting was being held at the high school that included Principal Jane A. Day, Assistant Principal Timothy M. Rumberger, and Deputy Officer Shaun Cahill of the Barnstable County Sheriff’s Department.
Mr. Rumberger was called out of the meeting, and minutes later so was Ms. Day. Ms. Day then adjourned the meeting due to an “urgent situation” occurring at the school.
As he was leaving the meeting, Officer Cahill was asked to speak with a student about the dangers of bringing a “fake gun” to school.
The only contact made with the Mashpee Police Department was by two voice mail messages left for an off-duty detective, with no attempt made to request emergency response, according to the letter from Chief Collins. The messages were left after 5 PM and around 6 AM the following day, during the detective’s off-duty hours.
“My concern is that the student suspected of possessing a possible firearm was confronted without the knowledge or presence of a police officer. From a tactical and strategic law enforcement perspective, logic is absent in this decision-making process,” Chief Collins wrote.
Barnstable County Sheriff James M. Cummings said that while Officer Cahill was at the high school, he was there for a meeting, and was not armed. Sheriff Cummings also confirmed that Officer Cahill was not requested to speak with the student until after the incident occurred and the gun had been confiscated and determined to be a fake.
“Chief Collins’s concerns are genuine. Hopefully it was just a communications breakdown and will be fixed moving forward,” Sheriff Cummings said.
In an interview earlier this week, outgoing school Superintendent Ann M. Bradshaw said that she welcomes the opportunity to speak with Chief Collins and would be willing to make any needed changes to the school’s emergency notification policy.
Ms. Bradshaw said that the schools have emergency response and threat assessment protocols in handbooks and in every classroom and office, but in this case the principal and vice principal determined the incident was not an emergency and decided to work with the school’s primary contact at the police department.
“I do not think that anyone in the school system would hesitate to call the police if they thought it was necessary,” she said.
Ms. Bradshaw confirmed that the student involved in the incident has been disciplined, but she was unaware of whether any high school staff members were reprimanded.
As of press time, Ms. Day and Mr. Rumberger had not returned a request for an interview. Mashpee schools have been on spring vacation this week.
School committee member Scott McGee told the Enterprise that he was informed about the incident via e-mail from the superintendent last Thursday, but that it was not the main subject of the message and was not mentioned until the third paragraph.
Mr. McGee said he was shocked by the incident, even though gun-related issues have become a common occurrence in public schools.
“Things happen, and kids do stupid things, but you still need to notify public safety officials. Even if the gun was determined to be fake, it is still considered to be contraband, and the police should be contacted immediately. The police have a different way of delivering a message than educators do,” said Mr. McGee, adding that he was “spooked” when he thinks of what could have happened.
Mr. McGee also pointed out that it would have been a smart “cover yourself” move for the school administrators to contact the police, since in this age of instant communication, information about an incident can flow outside of the school’s walls quickly and spin out of control.
The Mashpee public school system is not the only Upper Cape district that has had to deal with potential gun-related emergencies this year.
In February, police confiscated a .380 Colt semi-automatic pistol in the pocket of a 15-year-old Falmouth High School freshman. In that instance, the assistant principal was told about the gun by a group of concerned students, and, in turn, contacted the police department, according to archives of the Enterprise. Police officers arriving on the scene pulled the student out of class and found the gun.
In a handbook posted on the Falmouth Public Schools website, it lists “inherently dangerous weapons, including, but not limited to, mock and toy guns” as a major infraction and violation of school policy.
Falmouth School Superintendent Marc P. Dupuis was out of the office this week and not available for comment.
Leave a Reply
In order to comment you need to be logged in.