SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Leaders of law enforcement in Onondaga County filled a grand jury room at the Onondaga County District Attorney’s Office Tuesday to review and enhance policies designed to prevent mass shootings.

In an interview with NewsChannel 9 following the meeting, the Onondaga County DA said it was scheduled after the mass shooting at the Tops in Buffalo and was made more timely after the school shooting in Ulvade, Texas.

After referencing the failures made by police in Texas, to allow the gunman to stay in the school for 90 minutes, DA Bill Fitzpatrick said: “Every officer in that room would take a bullet before standing outside and setting up a perimeter and allowing a kid to die.”

The group’s priority was to reinforce policies agreed to in a 40-page plan developed in August of 2018 by the Onondaga County School Safety Task Force. That group met as a result of the death of 17 students and teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Tuesday’s meeting was also a chance to brainstorm and consider updates or new ideas.

Extreme Risk Protection Order

The group discussed the Extreme Risk Protection Order (also referred to as ERPO or the “Red Flag Law”), which was updated just this week by Governor Kathy Hochul.

After a threat is made, anyone with concern can file a petition, and the law allows a judge to remove guns from a person exhibiting threatening behavior.

DA Fitzpatrick says using the Red Flag Law should no longer be considered optional by the state’s districts attorney or police departments.

He wants to do increased outreach to schools to ensure administrators are using the ERPO process, when students express threatening behavior.

Fitzpatrick said: “What this comes down to is very, very simple. lunatics should not be allowed to possess guns. now find me someone that disagrees with that. “

“Red Flag Law” Cards for Officers

To encourage more officers to petition for an Extreme Risk Protection Order, he’s going to produce reminder cards for every officer to carry.

He explains: “Similar to a Miranda card, we’re going to create a ERPO card for every officer in the county to have… a brief, simple outline on when to seek an ERPO.”

Encourage “Always Seek An ERPO”

The Onondaga County District Attorney wants law enforcement in the community to get habitual at always seeking an Extreme Risk Protection Order when appropriate.

He said there are occasions when a threat is made by a minor whose parents then remove guns from the family home. While that’s helpful, the DA says a formal ERPO will create a record that follows the person into adulthood, when he or she can legally buy weapons.

“When little joey turns 18 or 21 and wants to buy his AR-15 with a 50-round capacity magazine,” says Fitzpatrick, “there’s no record of that and he will probably pass a background check.”

He adds: “I’m not saying he should be banned from possessing a gun forever but there should be a little bit of an expanded application process.”

Tip 411

The DA wants to remind the community of a service his office pays for: Tip 411.

The free download allows anyone to download the app and, when needed, report danger. The submission results in a real-time conversation with officers from every police department in Onondaga County.

Search “OCCrimeTips” in your smart phone’s app store.

Fusion Center

DA Fitzpatrick credits Manlius Police Chief Michael Crowell and Dr. Jaclyn Schildkraut, an expert in mass shootings, for coming up with the idea of a “fusion center.”

He describes it as: “An overseeing body that would meet periodically to discuss ERPOs, threat assessments, and consider a county-wide threat assessment policy so there’s some consistency to it.”

Outstanding Concerns

With all the work local law enforcement is doing, there are a few possible issues the DA says would need state legislation.

He said the confidentiality of family court proceedings mean judge’s can’t file for an Extreme Risk Protection Order, when many of the minors are expressing threatening behavior.

He’s also worried that parents whose child is the subject of an ERPO and don’t follow instructions to remove their guns won’t be held in jail long enough to avoid a tragedy.