DougCo sheriff candidate reviews potential school safety measures in talk series

Heather Willard

Heather Willard / NewsBreak Denver / Sept. 8, 2022

(Highlands Ranch, Colo.) Auraria Campus Police Chief Michael Phibbs is hosting a series of talks on school safety best practices throughout Douglas County.

“The number one thing that everybody wants to talk about in terms of public safety in Douglas County is school safety,” Phibbs said. “I thought I could share a few of the things we’re doing on the Auraria Campus.”

Phibbs is running for Douglas County Sheriff but said the talks are designed as discussions on how to prevent tragedies based on his experience and knowledge. He noted his experience in providing school and campus safety, including eight years in his current position, eight years with the Elizabeth Police Department, and 10 years with the Summit County Sheriff’s Office. He also reviews school districts' grants submitted to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance for school safety funding.

He specifically discussed electronic door locks and keys, which can be remotely and instantaneously locked to prevent anyone from using the door or to limit access to specific users. He also advocated for installing bleeding control kits next to other life-saving devices such as fire extinguishers in public buildings and emergency alarms that would connect to the fire alarm systems, warning occupants of an emergency situation.

“We also have on our campus in every building defibrillators…but we also put in bleeding control kits,” Phibbs said. “One of the things we’ve learned from active shooters is that the people who aren’t killed instantly by the gunshots are dying from blood loss.”

Architecture plays a major role in safety, Phibbs explained, and many hardening measures can be built into schools. He spoke specifically about safe rooms, bullet-proof glass film, and adding additional reinforcement to the bottom of walls to act as barriers for sheltering individuals.

Emergency response protocols

Phibbs advocated for rethinking what an emergency situation response looks like at different age groups in K-12 schools. He discussed the Standard Response Protocol, which instructs building occupants to hold, secure, lockdown, evacuate and shelter in moments of crisis.

Phibbs said the Standard Response Protocol is a good option for schools with less-mobile and independent students, such as younger grades. However, he advocated for the Run, Hide, Fight protocol for upper classes, such as high schools. The methodology instructs occupants to prioritize finding ways out of the emergency situation over hiding or fighting the potential assailant.

“We train (Run, Hide, Fight) on our campus and I think for older kids in our school district that it is fair to teach them to think differently,” Phibbs said. “It also gives them the life skills so when they go on to college, they go on to shopping centers or churches or other places where we’ve seen this kind of violence, that they’re trained for that.

Arming teachers

He noted that some school boards have advocated for arming teachers, pointing to state law stating teachers may carry a firearm if their job requires it.

“I will admit that there is a discussion to be had for (arming teachers) in rural school districts in Colorado,” Phibbs said. “That’s not the case in Douglas County. We have law enforcement everywhere; we have three municipal police departments, we have a large sheriff’s office, we have school resource officers everywhere — law enforcement can be that response.”

Phibbs said he disagrees with arming teachers as it would place a burden on them he believes they are untrained to meet.

“This is not a game for people who do it part time who should be teaching kids,” he said. “If you’re asking teachers to be agents of the government and authorized to use force to defend schools, they better have the same training as police officers, they better have the same decisional skills and shooting decisions that police officers have.

Residents can attend Phibbs’s future school safety discussions, each scheduled for 6:30 p.m., at:

  • Roxborough Library, Sept. 15
  • Castle Rock Library, Sept. 20,
  • Castle Pines Library, Sept. 21
  • Parker Library, Sept. 26

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Public safety reporter in DougCo, Denver metro. Previously: Pueblo Chieftain public safety reporter, Athens Messenger associate editor. Caffeine fiend, cat mom and lover of all things spooky.

Broomfield, CO

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