Metal-Detecting Wands Issued to Officers in Baltimore County Schools

Gun incidents at schools in Perry Hall and Essex prompted use of the new tools.

On-duty police officers in Baltimore County Public Schools have a new tool at their disposal—metal-detecting wands.

The wands, intended to help school resource officers detect weapons on school grounds, are in direct response to the shooting at Perry Hall High School on Aug. 27 and gun incident at Stemmers Run Middle School in Essex on Sept. 11, according to Baltimore County Police Department Chief Jim Johnson.

"I believe that the devices have the potential to enhance school security. Certainly, we believe that in the future, these devices could be effective at keeping weapons out of schools," Johnson said.

Across the county, school resource officers are assigned to every public high school and all but five public middle schools. The number of officers on duty at each school and included middle schools are determined by police studies and are currently under review by the department, according to Johnson.

All 63 of the county's school resource officers have been issued a wand and trained in their use. Officers will begin using them in schools on Thursday. The purchase of 70 Garrett Super Scanner V wands cost the department about $7,000.

Johnson said the wands are similar to those used by security guards at major sporting events, and in court rooms and airports.

"Last weekend at the Ravens game, over 70,000 people were wanded before gong into the stadium. There's already some measure of awareness about these devices," he said.

Use of the wands in schools, however, must cross a high threshold.

Officers must have reasonable suspicion of a threat, including an "unusual lump or bulge under someone’s clothing, or hearing a report that a student has threatened to bring a gun to school," according to a press release from police.

Schools resource officers will not use the wands on every student and will not conduct random searches. School personnel, including teachers, will not be allowed to use the wands. With emergency exceptions, school administrators must be present when officers scan a student. The wands will not be used if a person objects because of medical conditions, including pregnancy or a pacemaker, according to the release.

Some parents suggested the use of wands during a community meeting in the week following the Perry Hall shooting, but the installation of stationary metal detectors at school entrances also received support.

The wands are portable and more cost effective than the stationary machines, Johnson said.

"A fixed metal detector—I do not think that's appropriate in a school building. I would point out that very few students have intent on causing harm in school buildings," he said.

Johnson said it is unknown if the use of wands would have prevented or impacted the incidents in Perry Hall and Essex, because officers did not observe suspicious behavior in advance.

"We don't know exactly what officers were thinking seconds before those incidents occurred, but who knows what kind of impact these devices could have in schools tomorrow," he said.

Johnson emphasized that the wands are a part of ongoing security efforts in county schools. The department has recently added 8,000 hours of patrol time for school resource officers, and is spending over $7 million annually toward school security.

He urged students and school administrators to be vigilant in reporting any suspicious behavior immediately to police, and asked parents to secure their weapons at home.

County residents can visit their local police precincts for free gun locks, he added.

"The issue here is weapons. If you decide to lawfully own a weapon, secure that weapon," he said.

Dennis Gilpin October 18, 2012 at 01:49 AM
It is really a deterrent so that a student will feel he may be the one singled out . The school adminstration depends on the students themselves to see a problem. If they do, notifying the authorities is the first step so they can ward off potential problems. For some reason, kids have resorted to trying to settle their problems on school grounds.Hope these measures will make them think twice about it.
mcgillicuddy October 18, 2012 at 04:17 AM
A waste of money.
JD1 October 18, 2012 at 05:07 AM
Waste of cash - looks good and sounds good to the idiots - shows BCPS trying to do "something" - no real changes in schools. Wanna keep things in check - random K-9 units strolling through the halls and cafeteria. Dogs scare the piss out of would be criminals.
moe green October 18, 2012 at 10:09 AM
the censors are alive and working here. 8,000 hours and 7 million toward school security? the police who work in the schooils are not really real police. the should be embarrassed getting paid while walking the halls. teaching behavior is the responsibility of the parents, not of the government.
K October 18, 2012 at 11:33 AM
Moe Green - You have no idea what the School Resource Officers do to help our children. What an idiotic comment. They have been an assett to the school system for many reasons. They have been mentors for those children that do not have the best examples being set by their parents. I personally have seen the connections they make with the children in our community. It has long lasting affects on many of these children. The only comment that you post that I agree with is that teaching behavior if the responsibility of the Parents.....but...there in lies the problem. Since they are real police and do police work outside of the schools as well.....you would certainly sing a different tune should you need their aid.
Michelle L October 18, 2012 at 12:51 PM
The best way to maintain safety is to have an open dialogue with all students and an anonymous method of reporting other children they believe pose a threat. A message box of some sort that is anonymous through a computer or just a physical mailbox would do the trick. I'll bet in most of these cases, perpetrators of school violence would have been identified by several different students which would flag a particular individual and protect random children from a solitary reports made for some other motivation. Wands and other means may lure students into a false sense of security that makes them believe a potentially violent child will be identified in some other way and changes the feel of a school to a prison setting.
Tim October 18, 2012 at 01:17 PM
Completely agree with JD
Jeanne October 18, 2012 at 01:35 PM
Some of the school resource officers care about thier job and and do thier job. I know of one high school were they don't care and sit around talking. They find excuses not to do thier job and are a waste of time & money. These wands are also a waste of money.
Gomer Pyle October 18, 2012 at 02:21 PM
How will these "magic wands" protect kids on the bus? How will they prevent someone from using a weapon on school property outside of the building or just off of school property? The article says that if officers see "an unusual bump or bulge" under clothing then they can use the wand. What about kids putting a weapon in their backpack? How will they be able to detect that? One resource officer can't be expected to monitor thousands of kids entering the building. This is an absolute waste of tax payer money and won't make schools any safer. Typical knee-jerk reaction.
Mike October 18, 2012 at 03:47 PM
Did police supervision ask the School Resource Officer for their input on what should be done? Hmmm, I wonder.....
PerryHallParent October 18, 2012 at 05:09 PM
I'm just counting the days (hours?) until the first "he touched my daughter inappropriately with the wand" or some sort of assault, breach of rights, illegal search and seizure or whatever lawsuit/complaint/whine to begin. I can see them tackling my youngest now as she sneaks her favorite doll under her coat for show and tell. What a riot, wands...really?
Mike Fisher October 18, 2012 at 07:21 PM
Must suck to be a kid these days. Pretty soon, schools will be just like airports. Watch before your eyes as America becomes more and more of a police state and watch how people just put up with it. Fall in line, that's the American way, right? Nothing makes sense anymore. The illusion of security is just that, an illusion. They'll just use their guns outside of school or use weapons that have no metal in them. A simple piece of plastic can be made into a stabbing tool, poisonings and other things. Just look at what the TSA does to people at airports including children. Things are becoming more of a "guilty until proven innocent" society where the majority pays for the actions of a few people. I know if I was in school and saw police officers everywhere, it would have freaked me out a little even though I had no real reason to be. If kids think that some dog is going to find their drugs in a locker, they'll just do the drugs before they go to school and leave the rest at home. Oh well, people are the ones that put up with this nonsense. Enjoy your ever growing police state.
chuck October 18, 2012 at 09:18 PM
you are absolutely correct Michelle L that is a big problem in AA county & Baltimore county you say something to the teachers or staff and it goes right back to the student and just makes problems worse there should deffinately be an easy way to make a report without opening yourself up to further harrasment
James Smith October 18, 2012 at 11:13 PM
If the officer needs "reasonable suspicion of a threat" they are allowed to pat down or frisk the person. No need for a wand.
FIFA October 18, 2012 at 11:40 PM
Gomer wants to check the black kids. Go Gomer.
Mike Fisher October 19, 2012 at 05:31 AM
It will take a lot more than one person to change the world. The people of this country have to do it together... once they are fed up enough to put aside differences and realize we all have a common goal.
Buck Harmon October 20, 2012 at 08:52 PM
Unless every student is subjected to the wand equally, those singled out will be discriminated against..... a total bull crap effort created by weak leadership that really don't know what they're doing....a "cop" out ...
Mike Fisher October 20, 2012 at 11:55 PM
I am fed up, but the crisis we're in right now is more along the lines of what we faced during the civil war. Corruption is out of control and people have very little say in anything aside from the illusion of elections. Not everyone has 45 minutes of free time to just to stand around in front of speed cameras. Coincidentally, I have seen vans parked in front of that camera several times. Maybe that was intentional? Besides, you said you did it accidently, so it's not like you purposely took a stand and decided to block the camera view for 45 minutes just to kill time. I am no Ghandi nor am I MLKjr. This is something the people of this country have to do together. It is about changing the world whether that's what you asked or not. Corruption, greed and dishonesty rule this world right now. These are different times. Ron Paul tried to expose it and look what the media did to him and that's a presidential candidate. People are afraid to stand up against the establishment since they could be fired from their jobs. In many ways, people live in fear now. Correcting this will take the effort of everyone in this country, but you can't get effort from people who are still asleep. As a matter of fact, Obama is passing a law as we speak that will make peaceful protesting illegal. This is not the same world MLK and Ghandi lived in. The road we're headed down is a bloody one. The country needs to band together, we have no good leaders anymore.
Buck Harmon October 21, 2012 at 12:31 AM
No one has to submit to a personal search if they choose not to...it is a violation of privacy. If there is probable cause to do a personal search, a warrant should be obtained....what happens if a student refuses to be searched? What law gives the SRO legal authority to perform illegal personal searches without permission or a warrant?
Mike Fisher October 21, 2012 at 12:33 AM
They can do whatever they want to do these days. I'm sure the Patriot Act has something to do with it. They just do whatever they want to do, they don't need warrants or permission.
Buck Harmon October 21, 2012 at 01:36 AM
Power comes from surrender, it can not be given or issued... those who choose not to surrender will continue to live freely and will continue to question and hold accountable perceived authority. it's a matter of knowing the truth, and not accepting that "they" can do whatever "they" want to because "they" think "they" can.....surrender comes with a steep price.....the price of freedom is even more.
Buck Harmon October 21, 2012 at 12:03 PM
Thank you Evets, These cases would perhaps demonstrate that courts have in fact been corrupted, and that maybe the requirement that a school official must be present at the time of the search (even a wand search), but there are no current laws that specifically allow this violation of privacy to yours or my student...a perceived quick fix like these wands are simply one of the next steps to form a police state. Remember, the students are being taught and should never be left to assume that this is the new normal. We currently live with the public apathy that resulted from our own slow but steady dumbing down through government mandated and approved curriculum. This way of dealing with the situation is, as I said before...."A weak cop out" that will violate much more than it will help. Wake up!
Mike Fisher October 22, 2012 at 01:30 AM
Um, you said "accidentally", so yeah, you did say it. That's not exactly stopping anything anyway, only for 45 minutes. One person can't do it, it has to be the whole country standing together. I'm not deluded or arrogant enough to believe I or any one person can fix this mess we're in. The government is big and powerful and they don't listen to us. This is not the same situation or circumstances as the other heros you mentioned faced such as MLK. The people of this country need to wake up and stand as one. A divided country is much easier to control than a united one and right now, we're divided. "Accidentally" sitting in front of a speed camera for 45 minutes once in your life isn't doing much. You said accidentally in your post when suggesting others should accidentally sit in front of that camera. United we stand, divided we fall and we're falling. Only when this country unites against the corruption that plagues this country will anything change and only then.
Jeanne October 22, 2012 at 07:58 PM
Hi Buck if the student is a minor they can request that their parents be present for any searches or questioning, if the student is an adult I don't think the police have to wait. I do know that when a cell phone is taken because of "using it during school hours" the staff member who takes it needs to make sure it is turned off in front of the owner of the phone and then put in a secure location. This is a problem with some staff members at PHHS, in fact one went through my son's phone without even asking and having no reason to since the phone was already turned off when the staff member approached him, and I did fight to have personal item more secure, a staff members pocket is not a secure location. As far as the wands I would think they would have to ask the student to empty the pockets and open the bags they were carrying first but I am not sure. Ask a parent of one of the students, they should have gotten an explanation about all the rules with the wands before they were in the school. If the parents didn't they should go to the police & board of education to find out why they didn't, those are the people that need to answer to them.
Mike Fisher October 22, 2012 at 11:31 PM
Talking and bringing to light these issues helps to awaken people to the injustices going on right now. If you want to call that "nothing", knock yourself out. You obviously miss the big picture. You're not even brave enough to post messages without deleting them. I won't be lectured by you about doing "nothing", but thanks anyway.
Mike Fisher October 22, 2012 at 11:38 PM
Being lectured to by an apparent coward who doesn't stand behind his own words means nothing to me.
Mike Fisher October 22, 2012 at 11:43 PM
Ignorance and cowardess deserves to be called out. You don't even stand behind your own words, yet you expect anyone else to take you seriously?
Mike Fisher October 22, 2012 at 11:55 PM
I suppose you're right. It is the ones who tell it how it is and stand behind those words that will be the ones responsible for leading people out of chaos and the others will go and hide. You don't stand behind yours, yet you keep responding anyway. Says a lot more about you than I. Very well then. Go ahead and delete all your posts, I'm sure they'll be gone within the next 24 hours as usual. Just because someone does a stupid thing doesn't mean they are stupid people just like someone does a cowardly thing doesn't mean they are cowards. What you've shown on these forums is pretty consistent, though. If you're happy being that way, more power to you.
Mike Fisher October 22, 2012 at 11:57 PM
Oh and you give spelling lessons too. I don't use that word often, I suppose "cowardess" would be a female coward or something. Thanks for the tip, but doesn't change much of anything.
Mike Fisher October 23, 2012 at 03:56 AM
Those were good things you've done that you mentioned before you deleted your posts, but why didn't you back off of those things? Did you start participating, organize your efforts, then say "oh nevermind, I retract everything I said and have started?" Of course not. You make very intelligent posts on here, many of them actually, but when you go and delete them, it sort of says that you don't really believe what you say and don't want anyone else to know what you've said. How can one say they believe in what they say if they just retract it immediately afterwards? Privacy? Why post in the first place then? You make good points that start good conversations, then you just delete them. Of course, you're free to do that, it just doesn't give your words much .. feeling or belief in what you say, your own words. I don't quite understand what privacy has to do with it, why share your thoughts at all if you want to keep them private? You make this forum confusing to others who see people talking to themselves without seeing the post they were replying to in the first place. Oh well, if that's how you want to make yourself look, but there's no shame in anything you say on here. You make good points, it's just a shame you don't seem to stand behind your words very often. Have a good night.


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something