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NYPD Left Schools in Dark After Battery Park Shooting, Sparking City Review

 Councilwoman Margaret Chin on Sunday held a rally at the site of a shooting near Battery Park, during which school administrators and safety officers were not informed of the situation.
Councilwoman Margaret Chin on Sunday held a rally at the site of a shooting near Battery Park, during which school administrators and safety officers were not informed of the situation.
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Office of Councilwoman Margaret Chin

FINANCIAL DISTRICT — The city's Office of Emergency Management will hold an interagency meeting with the police department and the Department of Education to review protocol around violent incidents near schools after administrators were left in the dark during last week's shooting near Battery Park.

A fight between two rival ticket vendors on April 24 resulted in one of the men firing a gun, grazing the chest of his competitor and striking a female bystander in the leg. The suspect was arrested days later and charged with attempted murder.

But administrators and safety officers of nearby schools were not looped in by emergency management or law enforcement after the incident, according to elected officials and community members, who have called on the NYPD and city agencies to better inform schools about protocol for nearby emergency situations.

"Certainly it's very concerning no matter what, but it's even more concerning if the word doesn’t get out," said Wendy Chapman of Community Board 1's Youth and Education Committee, who says she was alarmed to find at a PTA meeting the morning after the shooting that administrators of schools sitting blocks away from the incident had not been informed.

A handful of elected officials on Saturday sent a letter to the NYPD, the Office of Emergency Management and the Department of Education requesting a review of existing safety protocol, calling the lack of communication "disconcerting."

According to that letter, school safety officers and administrators for three schools within blocks of the shooing site at 2 Washington St. — Battery Park City School, Lower Manhattan Community Middle School and the JVL Wildcat Academy School — were not informed about the shooting.

"According to a number of school administrators in the surrounding community, NYPD school safety officers were not informed about the incident for a period of time ranging from hours to a day after the shooting occurred," reads the letter, signed by Councilwoman Margaret Chin, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, State Senator Daniel Squadron, Assemblywoman Yuh-Line Niou and Assemblywoman Deborah Glick.

"When these incidents occur, schools and their safety officers in the surrounding area should be the first ones to be notified," the letter continues. "We rely on them to protect our children, and without the proper information, they are unable to do their jobs."

Letter to NYPD DOE OEM Requesting Coordination for Emergency Situations by DNAinfoNewYork on Scribd

The principal of Battery Park City School, which is less than a half-mile from the site of the shooting, told DNAinfo New York she knew to shelter students in place — meaning doors to the school were locked due to a threat outside the building — only because a parent notified her shortly after the shooting, but that police and city officials did not make contact. 

"Everybody was safe, but now we know where there are some glitches in communication and we are working on fixing them," said Principal Terri Ruyter, adding she has reached out to the local police precinct and DOE officials to address those glitches.

"We're working with the 1st Precinct and the Borough Safety Director to streamline and make sure we don’t have that lapse in communication."

The principals of Lower Manhattan Community Middle School and the JVL Wildcat Academy did not return request for comment. The Department of Education also did not return requests for comment.

The director of law enforcement for a union representing thousands of school safety officers across the city told DNAinfo New York he was shocked police did not immediately inform school safety officers of the shooting.

"[In the event of a shooting] the school is notified and school safety is notified and they put the schools on a lockdown so that no one can enter or leave," said Derek Jackson, director of Teamsters Local 237's law enforcement division. 

"I'm very surprised to hear that mistake was made," he added.

However, an NYPD spokesman said those decisions are made on a case-by-case basis — the ranking uniformed officer at the scene of the incident will determine whether or not to notify an area school based on whether it is believed the perpetrator poses a threat.

"A supervisor at the scene of an incident will determine if the school needs to be notified if it's in the general vicinity," said Lieutenant John Grimpel.

"If we feel a school is in danger, we will definitely notify them and they will do a shelter-in," he added, noting the NYPD has ordered 108 shelter-ins throughout the current school year.

The NYPD is always reviewing protocol to identity potential improvements, he added.

A spokeswoman for the Office of Emergency Management said the agency is coordinating a meeting with the NYPD and DOE, tentatively scheduled for May 9, in order to review existing protocol and consider changes.

The office further clarified that the role of Emergency Management is not to issue notifications in incidents like the one in Battery Park, unless there had been public impacts such as street closures or transportation disruptions as a result.