Dozens train to be 'guardians' in Hillsborough Co. schools

The Hillsborough County School District gave reporters an inside look Monday at the first group of recruits training to be school security officers.

Forty recruits are in the middle of a training process that will last nearly two months.

"We can't really assure people that we're going to prevent evil, but I can damn well tell them that we're going to do our best and that's what I want parents to know," said Chief John Newman, with the district's Security and Emergency Management department. 

"I'm a parent too. I have family that works in the district. Your concerns are my concerns. To be quite honest with you, it's what keeps me up at night and we're going to do our best to keep those campuses safe," he said.

Following the deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, legislators passed a law requiring districts to place at least one armed security guard in every school by the start of the next school year.

Hillsborough County Schools must hire at least 150 new recruits. The district is unique, however, in that it already had 119 officers on its security staff.

Many of the recruits have lengthy previous law enforcement experience.

"I always felt that schools, municipalities, counties should take a proactive approach to protecting the children of our schools and I felt compelled to do something like this," said Luis Camacho, who spent 20 years as a detective with the New York Police Department before retiring in 2003 and then working as a fraud investigator for several private companies. "A child is a child, it doesn't have to be your own."

Along with going through intense physical training, recruits are also being asked to learn how to properly communicate with kids of all ages.

Another recruit, Gary Gobernik, said he's prepared to do what it takes to keep students safe -- even if it means putting his life on the line.

"It's something that's either here or it's not and it's here for me," he said, pointing to his heart. "I have four children. That's something that's very, very close to my heart and after seeing a lot of things that go on, I kind of had an urge to get back into it. This was perfect to me." 

After completing their four-week training with the district, recruits will have to train another three and a half weeks with the sheriff's office in order to be cerified as a "guardian."

According to the district, the majority of the new hires will be placed in elementary and charter schools.