Anchor Bay schools votes to bring in armed private security

The Anchor Bay school district has greenlit more security - the plan allows for five guards right now with plans to expand to eight. 

Three of the guards are retired or former police officers, one is a current military police officer, and another is a retired Detroit Fire captain with experience in school and corporate security.

Stefanie Rieden is breathing a bit easier after the Anchor Bay school board voted to bring in private security.

"It's a start, you have to start somewhere," said Rieden, a parent. "And as easy as these schools are to get into, having somebody on-site who could possibly stop it, sooner than our police department - it would be great."

The board approved a three-year contract worth nearly a quarter-million dollars a year with The Fortis Group to provide armed security guards at its schools in addition to its three school resource officers, and four unarmed security guards.

"To fill that void, we can have these people and move them around in such a way that we’re covering all of our buildings so at least somebody is always there," said Superintendent Phil Jankowski.

Jankowski says the district was planning to add more surveillance equipment and emergency alert systems if voters approved a bond proposal in November, but he said there is a more immediate demand for security.

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"The number one concern from parents has been, 'What are you doing in the meantime?'" he said.

The answer was The Fortis Group — a company run by three brothers with police and military experience.

FOX 2 spoke with CEO Brian Bastianelli by phone.

"If you have a hyper-violent, deranged individual that is set out to kill people in a targeted attack, the only thing that’s going to stop that person is if they make it through whatever security measures are in place - is a good person with a firearm," he said.

The mass shooting at the elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, and the shooting at Oxford High School right here in southeast Michigan, factored heavily in the district’s efforts to beef up security.

Dominic Vendittelli says Wednesday’s decision is only the first step.

"I don't think it is a gun problem with school violence, I think it is a mental health issue," said Vendittelli. "I think that the kids of today are not like the kids of yesterday and I think there is a serious deterioration of mental health due to several factors. In addition to what they are doing today, also make more attempts to focus in on mental health to make sure we get that resolved so we don't have that issue going forward."

John Deroo, the only board member to vote no on the contract, says the Chesterfield Police Department would have been a better fit to provide armed security, even though it might have cost the district more money.

On top of that, he says Anchor Bay has not vetted The Fortis Group contractors who will be working in their schools.

"School starts next week, we got a piece of paper with their names on it," Deroo said. "We don't know who they are. But we know the police officers of Chesterfield Township. So I don't think it was too much to ask to wait another week or two. We would sit down with them, have a finance community meeting and see if we can afford it."

The CEO of the company says all the guards have been fully vetted and have been trained specifically to work within educational environments. District leadership said he wants the guards fully ingratiated and involved in the life and culture of Anchor Bay schools. They will wear Polo shirts and khakis and not tactical gear.

The Fortis Group is also working in the Huron Valley School District.