Parent questions police response to incident at Marion High School
A Times Special Report By Michael Coulter
The Feb. 19 incident at Marion High School, in which a gun was discovered in possession of a student on campus and the reaction of the Marion Police Department, has sparked serious concern from one parent who identifies himself as a “highly trained security professional.” Due to the sensitivity of his profession and the possible repercussions from what he has to say regarding this incident and how it was handled, we are honoring a request for anonymity. This parent, who is familiar with the training of law enforcement “Special Response Teams,” and the degrees in responding to various levels of critical situations, believes the Marion Police Department was “in no way prepared” to deal with the situation, adding if the situation happened to involved what he described as an “active shooter,” the responding police officers would not have been able to avert the possibility of serious injury or loss of life due to a lack of proper training. “There is a false perception in Crittenden County that Marion has no crime. Let me set the record straight and make it clear that there is a lot of crime being committed in Marion,” he said. “When our children are impacted and you are affecting the safety of my child, it is time for every parent to become concerned as to what is occurring in Marion and in particular the schools.” Breaking the situation down step-by-step, he said his first issue was the response time of the Marion Police Department, the officers’ lack of training in regard to special response situations, and the failure on the part of the police department to involve other law enforcement agencies that do have the capability of dealing with emergency response situations, particularly involving school incidents. “From my role as a father with a student in the Marion schools I seriously question Marion Police Department’s ability to control an active shooter situation. They are just lucky the kid didn’t load the gun and pull the trigger because if he had, the outcome would have been far different,” he said. And, as far as the crime rate in Marion, he said he would like to know the Marion Police Department’s response is to the escalating crime rate and the nature of the crimes being committed. “It was mentioned that Chief Gary Kelley was boasting over the reaction of his special response team. What special response team? There has been no training, no funding or time set aside for anything such as special response especially situations at the schools,” he said. He went on to say, “The real heroes are the teachers and the faculty, not the Marion Police Department.” Since that event occurred, this “professional” says he has learned that Kelly has authorized the organization of a special response team. He’s been told they will train under the Crittenden County Sheriff’s Office Special Response Team trainers twice a month. “This is nothing more than reactive and not being proactive,” the expert said. He went on to say, “You would think that with all the similar situations occurring throughout the country, the Marion Police Department could learn from those situations, but in Marion’s case there hasn’t been any special training of police officers for over 12 months.” “I have seen the shooting ability of most Marion’s officers, and I question their ability to take drastic life-saving action when a kid has a loaded weapon in his hand. I ask the question: When was the last time Chief Kelley trained his officers on a young adult wielding a loaded weapon?” As a “trained professional,” he said, he was shocked when he saw the individual being taken into custody and being led out of the school handcuffed in front instead of the back. “This could have been a whole lot worse and all you had were untrained police officers dealing with a very serious situation,” he said. When asked what he thought needed to be done, he was quick to say there needs to be some serious consideration for coordinating the three law enforcement agencies in Crittenden County and the creation of a single, well-trained countywide task force to be called upon in situations such as this. There needs to be constant training prior to an event and not waiting until after the fact. And, he says, the citizens of Marion need and deserve to be informed as to the level of crime in their city. “When I come home and am told by my children what is going on in the schools, hear from my neighbors about acts of crime and see what people are reporting on the social media, there is a problem,” he said. He was referring to other incidents at the Marion schools, the recent shooting at the convenience store and other unreported situations. “As a parent, I am still skeptical of law enforcement response to protecting my child,” he said.