Reporting Liz Collin
REMER, Minn. (WCCO) – The tragedy and terror of the Newtown massacre was felt some 1,500 miles away by Cass County Sheriff Tom Burch.
“After the incident at Sandy Hook, it really brought a new light to, you know, that this could come home really easily,” Burch said.
Sheriff Burch laid out a line of defense: getting his deputies off the roads and out of their vehicles, and into the communities’ schools.
Deputies stop in a few times a week, walking through the hallways and doing their paperwork in the school office.
Deputy Eric Alger says the experience is positive for both the school and the deputies.
“It’s going very well. We’ve got a real good feel from the students as far as us being in here and interacting with them,” Alger said.
In the few weeks it’s been going on, teachers have noticed a peace of mind. Northland Community Schools student Jordan Perkins says he feels safer with law enforcement on the premises.
“it’s nice having someone who’s trained and can carry a weapon at school,” Perkins said.
Feeling safe may be more of a challenge in Remer than in a metro school. Deputies patrol 2,400 square miles. And in some cases, it could take more than a half hour to respond to an emergency.
Northland Community Schools Principal Joe Akre says having deputies in the building is helpful in several ways.
“The presence of law enforcement in the building is not only a deterrent but it’s a way to help educate our kids on the process and what law enforcement does,” Akre said.
That’s just one more goal of all of this – to show students they can have a future in these small towns.
“All too often our communities don’t have a lot to offer, so the kids move on,” Burch said.
The new generation will be provided with options, and protection from a grim reality.
“We don’t have a lot of problems, but Sandy Hook didn’t either,” he said.
Right now deputies only stop at the schools in Remer and Pillager. But Sheriff Burch says they’ll add more schools to their stops next school year.