The Warwick Police officer who has run the Citizen Police Academy for years, worked in community policing and has trained the Warwick Boys and Girls Clubs in security procedures earning it the …
The Warwick Police officer who has run the Citizen Police Academy for years, worked in community policing and has trained the Warwick Boys and Girls Clubs in security procedures earning it the distinction of being nationally recognized, is expected to be named the Warwick School Department’s first coordinator of safety and security.
The School Department voted earlier this month to create the position and Wednesday they were expected to approve Daniel Maggiacomo’s appointment to the post. Maggiacomo retired last week after a 20 year career with Warwick Police.
Superintendent Lynn Dambruch believes every school district should have a coordinator of school safety and security.
“I don’t see them sitting in an office here,” she said Monday as she, Assistant Superintendent William McCaffrey and director of technology Jeff Taylor listed expectations of the newly created post. They see the coordinator as “partnering” with the police and fire departments as well as state agencies including the state police and Rhode Island Emergency Management.
“The best way to be ready is training, training, training,” said Taylor. He sees the safety officer not only working with faculty and students but also the community. He said it is important that the community knows what the drills look like.”
“It’s the day to day safety,” he said.
The department uses a 16-page school walk through form to evaluate safety. In addition, he said buildings are designed around safety and that safety is “a number one priority.”
Among preferred qualifications listed on the posting for the job is experience with facilitating, instructing and presenting materials to faculty and students on safety and security and experience with grant projects and audit reporting. Also among desired qualifications is an ability to respond to a location in the district when called for a specific incident.
The department has applied for a $400,000 School Violence Prevention Program grant to fund the position for three years. Should the grant be approved, the district would be responsible to match 25 percent of the cost of the program.
Focused on response
In text correspondence, Maggiacomo said during his tenure with Warwick Police he focused on increasing the response and communication between the school department and first responders for all hazards.
“As you know I have spent years directing the Citizens Police Academy and strived to increase the relationship between the department and the public through education and awareness. Giving young students an opportunity to explore career opportunities as well as giving residents an inside look at the professional officers in Warwick,” he said.
He said his mission has been to focus on the areas of preparedness, planning and response.
“I hope to take the past two decades into the WPS with a clean slate and fresh set of eyes and open ears to any issue that arises,” he said.
Lara D’Antuono, executive director of the Warwick Boys and Girls Clubs, couldn’t think of anyone more qualified for the job than Maggiacomo.
She pointed out as a veteran of the Police Department he knows the personnel and policies. He was a member of the department’s SWAT team. Yet he is no stranger to the schools where he worked with SROs, School Resource Officers and in youth programs.
D’Antuono applauds creation of the school department post, citing what Maggiacomo has done for the clubs.
The Warwick Boys and Girls Clubs operate clubs in Oakland Beach, Norwood and the Cooper Armory on Sandy lane where it runs programs for middle school aged kids.
“We walk through our facilities all the time and you become blind to what’s in front of you,” she said. D’Antuono said she and her staff are attuned to what’s educational for youths whereas, “he (Maggiacomo) thinks of how to keep them safe.”
Training for active shooter
Several years ago the police department trained club personnel how to respond to an active shooter situation with members of the SWAT team carrying out a mock forced entry into the Norwood Club as staff were in a locked, darkened room and lying on the floor. D’Antuono sees Maggiacomo going far beyond training teachers and school administrators in being sensitive to security and coping with an active shooter situation. From her own experience, she knows how important it is deescalate conflicts before they erupt into violence.
“What is the social and emotional response going to be,” she asked of those in charge. She observed it could be a fight between middle or high school students or an angry parent. “You look for body language,” she said. “Once it becomes active (violent), it’s too late.”
When she learned the department was considering creation of the position and Maggiacomo was the candidate her first thought was, “oh my God, who’s going to be my trainer.”
D’Antuono talked with Dambruch who saw no reason why Maggiacomo couldn’t continue with the club.
“She said they are all our kids,” said D’Antuono.
Boys and Girls Clubs of America ranked the Warwick clubs as have one of the two best security programs in the country. Col. Brad Connor, a member of the Warwick clubs’ board, chairs the clubs’ security committee.
“Youth development is part of the club culture,” D’Antuono said, “and safety is part of that culture. Not in a scary way from letting in the electrician to who is going in and out every day.”
“We own them,” she said of youths using the clubs and those in school, “from the minute they are in our custody until they go home. To parents they (children) are their most treasured possessions. We need to honor that. I truly feel a sense of relief knowing he (Maggiacomo) is looking over all of this.”
Asked about Maggiacomo as a candidate to fill the new school post, Col. Connor wrote in an email, “Nowadays with the rise in active shooting incidents, highlighted by some recent tragic events, it is very appropriate that the Warwick School Department have someone designated to oversee Safety and Security within the district. Someone with Dan’s expertise and experience as a tactician, trainer and planner is a perfect fit for the position. The Police Department looks forward to a continued positive working relationship with the School department to maintain a safe environment for our children.”
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