Balto. Co. police issue hand-held metal detectors to school officers

Devices will be ready to use Thursday

October 17, 2012|By Alison Knezevich, The Baltimore Sun

Baltimore County police have issued hand-held metal detectors to school resource officers after several gun-related incidents this fall, police announced Wednesday.

Police Chief James Johnson signed an order Wednesday authorizing the use of the "wands," and the devices will be ready to use Thursday. The county's 63 school resource officers — assigned to all high schools and most middle schools — have been trained to use them.

Under the department's policy, the hand-held metal detectors will not be used for random screenings, but only when officers have "a reasonable, explainable suspicion that a student or visitor possesses a weapon, or to help conduct a search as part of an arrest," county police said in the announcement.

That would include "seeing an unusual lump or bulge under someone's clothing, or hearing a report that a student has threatened to bring a gun to school," police said. Even if a school staff member asks an officer to check someone with a wand, the officer must have reasonable suspicion that there is a weapon.

Only officers trained to use the detectors will use them, police said. A school administrator must be present when an officer scans a student, except in emergencies, they said.

The 70 wands cost a total of $7,000, and Johnson expedited the purchase, officials said. They are manufactured by Garrett.

The system has had three gun-related incidents since the school year started. A student at Perry Hall High is accused of shooting a classmate in the cafeteria on the first day of school. In September, a 13-year-old boy brought a loaded handgun to Stemmers Run Middle School in Essex and threatened classmates and his teacher; no one was injured, officials said. And last week, six bullets were found in a pair of pants left in the boys locker room at Deer Park Middle in Randallstown.

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