“My high school SRO’s nickname was Barney Fife”

What’s reasonable to expect from School Resource Officers?
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In a prior post  we asked the question: “So, would YOU have charged the Uvalde school shooter?”

I admitted that I probably wouldn’t have … and laid out 4 criteria that might have motivated me to act:

  1. A threatened family member, e.g. a grandkid
  2. Some probability greater than zero that the periled life would be saved
  3. Enough physical might and equipment to. conceptually, get the job done.
  4. A probability greater than zero that charging wouldn’t  simply be a futile suicide mission.

Draw your own conclusion as to whether those criteria are reasonable and compelling.

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I ended that post with WSJ, columnist Peggy Noonan’s opinion regarding the first police officers on site at Ulvade — namely, the SROs:

It was their job to go in.

If you can’t cut it, then don’t join and get the badge, the gun and the pension.

We can’t let it settle in that the police can’t be relied on to be physically braver than other people.

An implicit agreement in going into the profession is that you’re physically brave.

Let’s add some perspective to Noonan’s castigation….

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An armed SRO in every school?

There seems to be a consensus building that all school’s should have an armed law enforcer on site.

I’m OK with that but…

Keep in mind that are over 130,000 K-12 schools in the U.S. Source

  • Elementary schools: 87,498
  • Secondary schools: 26,727
  • Combined schools: 15,804

Assuming an average of $50,000 (per year, per SRO) in wages, benefits and equipment, that works out to about $6.5 billion annually.

But, it’s not about money, it’s about kids’ lives, so let’s push that number aside and move on.

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How to staff those 130,000+ positions?

Ideally, I personally would like to see a former Navy Seal, Army Ranger or Green Beret … well-armed (yes, with a so-called “assault rifle”) … standing (not sitting) at the single (locked) access door to my grandkids’ schools.

But, that’s not a reasonable expectation.

First, there aren’t enough of them to staff 130,000 schools

Second, even if there were, they wouldn’t take the job … it’s not in their DNA to hang out waiting for lightning to strike.

So, who do we get to fill the SRO positions?

Newbie or “pastured” police officers?  Retired military? Rent-a-cops?

As former Democratic Congressman Harold Ford, Jr. put it: “My high school SRO’s nickname was Barney Fife”

For younger readers, Barney Fife was a self-confident but inept police officer on the Andy Griffith Show.

He was on the police force in the rural, crime-free town of Mayberry RFD … and, for fear that he might hurt himself (or somebody else), he was only allowed to carry an unloaded gun with a single bullet tucked in his shirt pocket. Source

That’s a bit harsh, but realistically, probably more representative than, say, Rambo-clones.

SROs draw relatively small paychecks  … and, given the long odds of being confronted with a crazed active shooter, don’t really anticipate that they’ll need to put their lives on the line.

If they did, many wouldn’t want the job … and most would want higher pay.

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And, how will they be equipped?

Will SRO’s carry automatic weapons, wear body armor and have ready access gun fire shields?

My hunch is that many (most?) folks would understandably find that sort of personal protection equipment to be emotionally disturbing to the school students.

So, the SRO’s would have to make do with handguns and bullet-proof vests.

Not exactly a fair fight against a well-armed active shooter.

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Bottom line

All of the above not withstanding, I’m all for SROs in every school.

But, I think we need to constrain our expectations about what they’re able to do.

Going mano-a-mano to neutralize a crazed assault-gunner isn’t a realistic expectation, Ms. Noonan.

It’s not part of the “implicit agreement”.

Rather expect SROs to train teachers & students, red-flag (aka, “profile”) trouble-makers, keep the doors locked and call. for help if and when hell breaks.

That’s not all bad … and, in fact, can be a critical part of providing school security.

More on that in a subsequent post.

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