Arming School Staff Members or School Resource Officers – Let’s Look at the Facts, Part 1
By Kevin Quinn
There has been much talk about school safety and active shooters. One solution discussed at great lengths is arming school staff to deter and respond to an active shooter. Some people say the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. I wish it were that easy, but there are several considerations to take when the topic of arming school staff members arises. For today’s blog, I will discuss two primary issues, identification and training. In Part 2 of this blog post, I will cover the remaining issues.
As a police officer, I wear a uniform that identifies me to other officers and the public. Even if responders can’t see my face, they know I am not the suspect and can react accordingly when locating the threat. Unfortunately, teachers do not dress any differently than regular civilians and do not stand out in a crowd at a school – especially high schools and colleges where the students are older than elementary school students.
Furthermore, when officers arrive at the scene of an active shooter, our first goal is to end the violence. As we attempt to locate the suspect, we look for someone with a weapon. Imagine we come across Mr. Jones, the math teacher, in the hallway with his gun drawn. Chances are, Mr. Jones will be detained until his identity can be confirmed. That is, of course, if Mr. Jones doesn’t react in a way the officers deem a threat. In that case, there is a possibility of injury. But here’s another alarming variable –time – precious time that officers should be spending locating and apprehending the suspect.
How much training will the armed staff members receive when the program is put into place? How much on-going annual training will they receive? How many hours will a staff member train before being allowed to carry a gun in schools? Depending on the location in the country, I have heard everything from eight to 24 hours of firearms training. It is important to realize that being able to shoot holes in paper does NOT mean you are ready for a potential deadly-force encounter. That readiness comes with intensive force-on-force training, decision-making scenarios, and high-stress combat shooting.
As you can see, identification and training alone raise several questions we need to consider before deciding to arm our school staff members. Look for Part 2 of the blog post, later this week.
Kevin Quinn is a 20-year veteran police officer and SRO in Arizona and the former President of the National Association of School Resource Officers. He is the current President of the Arizona School Resource Officers Association as well as an advisor to several school safety organizations. He can be reached on Twitter @klah316 or email email@example.com.
Identification is a critical issue for all. Officers responding to a school active killer may or may not be in uniform and may or may not be known to other officers either inside the school or entering. The issue of “blue on blue” shootings must be a major concern in any high stress response.
Training is critical for any lethal response. Ohio faces the stark reality that placing an SRO in every school is financially impossible. Yet, we know that “time” is the main enemy in responding to a shooter and someone in the building armed and trained is the best solution to saving lives. Volunteer training is offered in Ohio to all school staff who qualify to attend. Level I training is three days of intense training including multiple real life scenarios with debriefing, live fire drills consisting of 400 to 500 rounds of ammunition fired and three hours of Tactical Combat Casualty Care. The attendees must shoot and pass the same qualification test required by the Ohio Peace Officer Training Commission for all law enforcement officers.
Level II is almost entirely scenario based including triage when the threat is neutralized. Level III is held at the actual school site and is many times attended by local law enforcement training side by side with the armed school staff. Both Levels II and III are three days in length.