BY MARCO SANTANA
ORLANDO – The top law enforcement official in Polk County said Monday that his department has started a program that will train and arm teachers in schools to fend off and discourage would-be shooters.
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd also said the Baker Act, which governs involuntary institutionalization of people with mental health issues, needs more teeth.
“When a crazed gunman arrives on campus with murder in his eyes, the deed is done within two to five minutes,” he said, adding that criminals will think twice if they suspect someone else on campus might have a gun under the county’s so-called “Sentinel program.”
Adopted by university
Several private colleges and other schools have sought more information about the program, which was adopted by Southeastern University in Lakeland in December, Judd said.
Judd made the remarks Monday in the wake of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, where gunman Nikolas Cruz killed 17 people on Feb. 14.
Cruz appeared in court Monday for procedural motions related to the Valentine’s Day shooting.
Judd said if teachers there were armed, the incident could have had a different outcome.
“We had coaches that ran to stand in front of their students with no gun,” he said. “Why not give them a fighting chance?”
The sheriff took questions for roughly 30 minutes during a feisty news conference, which began with Judd announcing several arrests and charges filed in unrelated incidents.
He acknowledged that some would not agree with his plan.
However, he also noted that those who criticize have not offered alternatives, saying “OK, Einstein, you got a better idea?”
Judd said discussions about gun control measures would be “another argument for another day.”
Ready to respond
Under his program, a group of teachers or professors who volunteer for the training would go through a certification program that would be more stringent than even police officers go through, Judd said.
The result would be armed teachers ready to respond to active shooters on campuses.
“We would have (shooters) apologizing for even showing up with the gun by the time they have four or five rounds in them,” he said.
“God forbid that terrible day ever occurs. But we would have a group of people armed with guns to run to the threat and neutralize it before they reach our children.”