LONG BEACH - Between the coordination of the return of singer Jenni Rivera's remains from Mexico Thursday night and the horrific reports from the Connecticut elementary school shooting, Friday was a day of high alert for the Long Beach Police Department.

Though the shooting, in which reports Friday said more than 20 people were killed, was on the other side of the country, there were several issues for local law enforcement to address, said Deputy Police Chief Robert Luna. Also complicating things Friday was a crowd of mourning fans gathering at All Souls Mortuary on Cherry Avenue where the remains of Long Beach-born Rivera had been taken.

"When you first look at (the shooting) you're dealing with the human effect.



You feel horrible. ... As a parent and a father, you go, `Oh, my God, I have children at school,' you expect that's going to be one of the safest places, and I still believe they are safe," the deputy chief said.

File Video: Drill tests police

The next reaction, he noted, is to look at the incident from a professional standpoint. Agencies around the country start viewing the tactics used in the incident almost immediately, and they try to determine whether their jurisdiction would be trained and prepared if such an attack played out here.

"We're very concerned about incidents like this. It could be a school incident or could be a workplace violence incident.


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The trends seem to be toward places where many people are gathered," Luna said, citing Portland's recent mall shooting as well as the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy.

"You hope that a scenario like this never takes place in your city, but you have to absolutely be prepared in the event something like this were to happen."

That preparation includes multiple active shooter drills at area schools every year, where students and adults play the roles of suspects and victims in as realistic settings as possible. That's crucial, Luna said, to help officers get the right mind-set in the event there is a mass shooting.

"You have to understand the mentality you have to have when gunshots are firing and everyone is running away from them and as a police officer, you have to run toward them," he said. "It is a race against time, and you're trying to do it in the safest manner possible, but you have a badge, you have the training, ... people are going to expect you are going to stop the shooter .. and make everyone as safe as possible."

Then there is the role that law enforcement and city leaders play in keeping the community calm. While some parents talked Friday about the urge to take their children out of school, Luna stressed that isn't the best course of action to take.

Students here should continue with their normal routine and parents and their children should feel secure in the security measures already in place at area schools, which include school resource officers assigned to the area high school campuses and not allowing anyone on campus without school staff supervision.

In addition, all patrol officers were told Friday to focus on the schools in their beats and to stop and talk with parents, staff and kids when able to assure them of the safety efforts that have been put in place, Luna said.

Parents should talk to their children about what to do if such a situation were to occur at their school, mall or other public place, and should make sure they know what emergency plans their child's school has in place for such situations.

The Long Beach Police Department and the Long Beach Unified School District are in constant contact with one another and work together to address any issues of concern about possible school violence, either by a student or someone else, the deputy chief said.

All reports of threats are referred to the Police Department, with works with the schools to follow up with parents. The focus, Luna said, is usually on making sure the student gets whatever help they need to address the root of problem behavior before it erupts into violence on campus or elsewhere.

"We have been very vigilant about these issues ever since Columbine. Even earlier," Luna said, referring to the 1999 Columbine High School shooting in Littleton, Colo. "And we know there are a lot of things we can do as a preventative measure so that we don't have this kind of thing happen again."

tracy.manzer@presstelegram.com, 562-714-2150, twitter.com/tmanzer