Our View: When the process works

Our View: When the process works
Photo/Cody Mello-Klein

The old saying “practice makes perfect” is largely true. But before knowing what to practice, a process must be developed.

Professional athletes, from golfers to baseball and basketball players develop routines before putting, batting or shooting free throws, respectively. The reason they do this is so when the pressure’s on in the big match or game, when their minds may be partially frozen with anxiety, the ingrained routine takes over, enhancing their chance of success.

The military and public safety departments like police and firefighters all spend considerable time training on procedures that instill discipline – and prepare them for the moment when either their or someone else’s life may be at risk.

The Alexandria Times also follows processes to increase our chance of success in the face of pressure. Our processes ensure that stories and pages are fully edited by multiple people, so that when things are flying back and forth on production day, mistakes that would otherwise appear in our pages are usually caught.

We believe that good processes that were expertly followed led to the successful outcome on an Alexandria City Public Schools bus on May 11.

Two school bus drivers and the bus dispatch operator each, from where we sit, did their jobs to perfection last Thursday. As a result, no one was hurt and a student was not released to an unauthorized individual. The situation was extremely tense for a while, but the ACPS adults followed processes and protected the students in their care.

The first bus driver, while dropping off children at Brent Place Apartments, was confronted by a large male who entered her bus via the emergency exit, according to recordings publicly available on openmhz.com.

The driver called dispatch several times, becoming increasingly frantic as she said the male, who she said was unauthorized to take a kindergartner who was riding the bus, refused to leave and pushed her.

Despite this threat to her own safety, the driver refused to release the child. She asked dispatch to confirm whether or not the kindergartner could be released to the male who had forced his way onto her bus.

The second hero in this scene was the dispatch operator. She followed processes by double checking the kindergartner’s authorization form, confirming that the male who had forced his way onto the bus was not authorized to take the child. This operator instructed the bus driver to hold the radio to the ear of the male who had boarded the bus, and told him she was calling the police.

While all of this was playing out, the dispatch operator told the increasingly upset bus driver to stay calm. When the male finally left the bus after being told police were on the way, the dispatch operator instructed the female bus driver to leave Brent Place Apartments, which she did.

Then the third person, another bus driver who had pulled up behind the first bus, helped avert what could have been a tragic situation.

After the first bus pulled away, this driver saw the same male who had exited the first bus enter the apartment building and re-emerge with what looked like a semi-automatic gun. The second bus driver called dispatch and calmly described what he saw. The dispatch operator told the driver to leave the scene immediately, which he did.

Police investigated and determined that the male in question had a toy gun, not a real one. Of course, the second bus driver had no way of knowing whether the gun was real, and he absolutely did the right thing in reporting it.

While we question the APD assertion that no crimes were committed in this incident – surely entering a school bus via the emergency exit without permission and pushing a bus driver isn’t legal – we commend the three ACPS employees.

Their actions on May 11, which anyone can look up and listen to, show that these three ACPS transportation workers were well trained in safety processes. In following them, they successfully handled a difficult situation that could have resulted in tragedy. Well done!