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Metal-Detecting Wands Issued to Officers in Baltimore County Schools

Gun incidents at schools in Perry Hall and Essex prompted use of the new tools.

On-duty police officers in Baltimore County Public Schools have a new tool at their disposal—metal-detecting wands.

The wands, intended to help school resource officers detect weapons on school grounds, are in direct response to the shooting at Perry Hall High School on Aug. 27 and gun incident at Stemmers Run Middle School in Essex on Sept. 11, according to Baltimore County Police Department Chief Jim Johnson.

"I believe that the devices have the potential to enhance school security. Certainly, we believe that in the future, these devices could be effective at keeping weapons out of schools," Johnson said.

Across the county, school resource officers are assigned to every public high school and all but five public middle schools. The number of officers on duty at each school and included middle schools are determined by police studies and are currently under review by the department, according to Johnson.

All 63 of the county's school resource officers have been issued a wand and trained in their use. Officers will begin using them in schools on Thursday. The purchase of 70 Garrett Super Scanner V wands cost the department about $7,000.

Johnson said the wands are similar to those used by security guards at major sporting events, and in court rooms and airports.

"Last weekend at the Ravens game, over 70,000 people were wanded before gong into the stadium. There's already some measure of awareness about these devices," he said.

Use of the wands in schools, however, must cross a high threshold.

Officers must have reasonable suspicion of a threat, including an "unusual lump or bulge under someone’s clothing, or hearing a report that a student has threatened to bring a gun to school," according to a press release from police.

Schools resource officers will not use the wands on every student and will not conduct random searches. School personnel, including teachers, will not be allowed to use the wands. With emergency exceptions, school administrators must be present when officers scan a student. The wands will not be used if a person objects because of medical conditions, including pregnancy or a pacemaker, according to the release.

Some parents suggested the use of wands during a community meeting in the week following the Perry Hall shooting, but the installation of stationary metal detectors at school entrances also received support.

The wands are portable and more cost effective than the stationary machines, Johnson said.

"A fixed metal detector—I do not think that's appropriate in a school building. I would point out that very few students have intent on causing harm in school buildings," he said.

Johnson said it is unknown if the use of wands would have prevented or impacted the incidents in Perry Hall and Essex, because officers did not observe suspicious behavior in advance.

"We don't know exactly what officers were thinking seconds before those incidents occurred, but who knows what kind of impact these devices could have in schools tomorrow," he said.

Johnson emphasized that the wands are a part of ongoing security efforts in county schools. The department has recently added 8,000 hours of patrol time for school resource officers, and is spending over $7 million annually toward school security.

He urged students and school administrators to be vigilant in reporting any suspicious behavior immediately to police, and asked parents to secure their weapons at home.

County residents can visit their local police precincts for free gun locks, he added.

"The issue here is weapons. If you decide to lawfully own a weapon, secure that weapon," he said.

Mike Fisher October 22, 2012 at 11:38 PM
Being lectured to by an apparent coward who doesn't stand behind his own words means nothing to me.
Mike Fisher October 22, 2012 at 11:43 PM
Ignorance and cowardess deserves to be called out. You don't even stand behind your own words, yet you expect anyone else to take you seriously?
Mike Fisher October 22, 2012 at 11:55 PM
I suppose you're right. It is the ones who tell it how it is and stand behind those words that will be the ones responsible for leading people out of chaos and the others will go and hide. You don't stand behind yours, yet you keep responding anyway. Says a lot more about you than I. Very well then. Go ahead and delete all your posts, I'm sure they'll be gone within the next 24 hours as usual. Just because someone does a stupid thing doesn't mean they are stupid people just like someone does a cowardly thing doesn't mean they are cowards. What you've shown on these forums is pretty consistent, though. If you're happy being that way, more power to you.
Mike Fisher October 22, 2012 at 11:57 PM
Oh and you give spelling lessons too. I don't use that word often, I suppose "cowardess" would be a female coward or something. Thanks for the tip, but doesn't change much of anything.
Mike Fisher October 23, 2012 at 03:56 AM
Those were good things you've done that you mentioned before you deleted your posts, but why didn't you back off of those things? Did you start participating, organize your efforts, then say "oh nevermind, I retract everything I said and have started?" Of course not. You make very intelligent posts on here, many of them actually, but when you go and delete them, it sort of says that you don't really believe what you say and don't want anyone else to know what you've said. How can one say they believe in what they say if they just retract it immediately afterwards? Privacy? Why post in the first place then? You make good points that start good conversations, then you just delete them. Of course, you're free to do that, it just doesn't give your words much .. feeling or belief in what you say, your own words. I don't quite understand what privacy has to do with it, why share your thoughts at all if you want to keep them private? You make this forum confusing to others who see people talking to themselves without seeing the post they were replying to in the first place. Oh well, if that's how you want to make yourself look, but there's no shame in anything you say on here. You make good points, it's just a shame you don't seem to stand behind your words very often. Have a good night.

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