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Mich. chief coordinates rural response plan

The Flint Journal

CLIO, Mich. — Don't let the city's small size fool you.

Clio may be only 1.2 square miles, but its police department and top cop James McLellan have big ideas about leading an effort to keep school districts in the northern end of the county safe.

McLellan told city leaders Monday that he has been meeting with area law enforcement agencies and school districts to put together a response plan in case of school shootings or other emergencies, and he is bringing some heavy equipment to the table.

M-16 Army rifle? Check.

Ballistic shield. Got it.

Thermal imaging camera? That's an affirmative.

The department is even working on a plan to acquire an army emergency response vehicle.

"We're realizing that we're isolated up here," McLellan said. "We didn't have the equipment needed or a collaborative plan. The county sheriff has a containment team but that's 40 minutes away. It's not that we're unprotected, it's just that we need to be more coordinated."

Police agencies and school districts from Clio, Montrose, Mt. Morris and Mt. Morris Township have joined the discussion.

Clio Mayor Bob Smith was impressed with McLellan's initiative, especially since the pricey equipment won't come out of the city's pocketbook.

"We may be a small force, but we're the best in the county," Smith said.

Ballistic shields run about $2,400 each. McLellan said Wal-Mart of Vienna Township has agreed to present the police department with an $1,800 check Friday, and a second $1,800 check in February toward the school safety effort.

A FEMA grant that the department applied for last year will cover the cost of the camera valued at $11,424, plus training and lodging.

"That equipment can be used for search and rescue, fugitive searches, structure profiles and detecting heat signatures," McLellan said.

McLellan said he recognized the need for the collaboration when a November manhunt for a bank robber led county law enforcement to the Clio area - and near an elementary school building. Because the school district's boundary lines cover Clio, Thetford and Vienna Townships, this building was just outside of the Clio Police Department's coverage area.

But Chief McLellan initiated a lock down at the school building.

"That kind of sparked it," he said. "All this stuff is really based on what happened at Columbine. They had all of those officers to respond. The rest of us realized the need for coordinated efforts.

"This is for an active shooter, which is different from a barricaded gunman. With an active shooter you need to go in immediately. That's why we need officers up here with equipment and training."

Clio City commissioners supported McLellan and the police department's efforts.

"To see such positive strides coming from our little city is a huge thing," said Commissioner Duane Mosher.

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