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In the wake of mass shootings across the country, Port Huron police have fielded more requests from churches, nonprofits and schools seeking help to prepare them for an active shooter. 

Only a few officers can offer Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate (ALICE), training. But that should change thanks to a $24,941 grant the city is receiving through the U.S. Department of Justice’s Community Oriented Policing Services School Violence Prevention Program.

That money also is slated to help police in the St. Clair County community lead more active-shooter training sessions for area authorities, Officer Dennis Huisman said.

“It’s a great asset,” he said. “Hopefully we can gain a lot from this.”

Huisman’s department and Macomb County were among 91 jurisdictions nationwide securing more than $24 million in awards this year through the DOJ effort that aims to boost security with evidence-based school safety initiatives. The program is under the department’s COPS office, which 
since the 1990s has spent more than $14 billion to advance community policing.

Authorized under the STOP School Violence Act of 2018, the grants “enable our communities to better secure our schools and ensure that students feel comfortable as they learn, make friends and grow,” said U.S. Rep. Paul Mitchell, who represents Michigan’s 10th Congressional District. “I voted for legislation like the STOP School Violence Act to support and improve school security, and will continue working with my colleagues to ensure our nation has a multi-layered approach to preventing school violence.”

With a $316,860 grant, Macomb County plans to hire two staffers for two years to specifically work with schools and first responders on safety and violence prevention measures, said Vicki Wolber, its emergency management and communications director.

The workers are expected to help enhance an emergency plan already in place for the county, which has an estimated 150,000 students, while identifying improvements as well as exploring risk assessments and more, she said.

At a time when Michigan school officials are stepping up security amid ongoing threats and concerns about potential violence, “we want to make sure everybody is informed and we are working on this and we take it seriously,” Wolber said. “It’s all very positive and a good thing for the community.”

That influences the plans in Port Huron. Its grant also is earmarked for Huisman and another colleague acting as resource officers in the city’s schools to undergo additional professional instruction through a national group, he said. "To be able to get the advanced training from people who have been doing it a lot longer will be a great learning experience for us -- how to look for red flags and build relationships with students."

Huisman has noticed students are sometimes jittery following news of attacks elsewhere in the country but recognize the measures the local district has taken in recent years — including pre-screening at entrances. “They realized they’re in a safe place.”

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