Sheriff proposes armed security to protect schools

- After years of protecting the streets, retired law enforcement officers know how to spot a threat and how to neutralize it. 

"They will be the ones who understand when the bell rings they will go toward the problem, not away from the problem," said Sheriff Tom Knight. 

They would be the backbone of Sarasota County Sheriff Tom Knight's plan to put armed, plain-clothes security members in every school to protect them from any threat, including an active shooter. 

He compares it to the job of a U.S. Air Marshal. 

"They just blend in and they're there. They're trained and they know how to interact with people," said Sheriff Knight. 

With his proposal, the sheriff said security members would be contracted through the school and all training would be done through his agency.

He says after the initial pilot program starts they'll look to expand employment to veterans. 

This can only happen if state lawmakers allow concealed carry on school grounds. It's a bill Senator Greg Steube filed in the past, but it failed. 

"Some people say you're bringing more guns onto campuses I say no. We have police officers and deputies on campuses now. These people are retired law enforcement officers. It's the same scenario," said Sheriff Knight. 

Parents are divided on the subject. 

"To me, that really doesn't sound settling," said Christina Spada. 

Some are worried it will take away their child's sense of normalcy. 

"I don't want my child to feel like she's in a prison or a military school. I think going to school should be fun and that does not sound fun," she said. 

But Sheriff Knight said something needs to be done, sooner rather than later. 

"I'm not going to take no for an answer... This is a pressure point to do something different," said Sheriff Knight. 

In response the Sarasota County School District says: 

"We applaud the Sheriff's Office for their hard work and dedication to helping keep our students and staff safe. They, along with municipal police departments are our partners in every sense of the word when dealing with a crime or emergency involving our schools. The use of retired military and law enforcement officers to support our SROs and other staff is one of many ideas we will consider as we take a holistic approach to school safety and security. Sheriff Knight and his team, along with other local law enforcement and emergency responders, will be part of a much larger contingency to develop the right strategies and practices needed to further enhance the security of our schools."

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