Mannix About Manatee: Don't have teachers do law enforcement's job

vmannix@bradenton.comMarch 3, 2013 

Seeing a Manatee County Sheriff's Office cruiser outside a school has an effect.

If I'm visiting, I'm on my best behavior.

If I'm a parent, it's reassuring.

If I work at that school, same thing.

It usually means there's a resource officer on duty, a professional law enforcement person trained to serve and protect.

I would feel nowhere near as confident knowing there is a school employee designated to do that important job.

It doesn't matter who that person is, whether they're packing or have ready access to a weapon.

Not the assistant principal.

Not the fifth-grade teacher.

Not the phys-ed instructor.

State Rep. Greg Steube, R-Bradenton, believes otherwise.

The Southeast High School alum introduced a bill in the Florida Legislature last Wednesday that would require at least one armed person on every school campus.

It could be a resource officer, an arrangement I think we all support and exists at a number of our county's public schools.

It could be a security guard, which leaves me ambivalent. I'm having these visions of "Mall Cop" Paul Blart -- with a gun.

As for arming an assigned school employee?

Bad idea.

Not even Steube's father, Sheriff Brad Steube, is enthused by it.

Bradenton Police Chief Mike Radzilowski's response makes so much sense: We couldn't do a teacher's job; don't ask them to do ours.

Granted, school shootings have shaken our nation and school security has become a major issue.

Heaven forbid a tragedy like Sandy Hook Elementary School last December be repeated around here.

Yet if Greg Steube and the Legislature are serious about enabling our schools to protect themselves, provide the funding necessary to let professional law enforcement do it.

You can't do this on the cheap.

Have sheriff's deputies as resource officers on every campus not covered by the Bradenton Police Department or Palmetto Police Department.

Undoubtedly, there are teachers at our schools with concealed weapons permits who have become proficient on the target range.

Putting them into a crisis situation is an entirely different matter.

Regardless of the training Steube's bill stipulates for such school employees, it would not approach the background and qualifications law enforcement personnel must have inorder to react and perform in a high-stress environment where lives are at stake.

Expecting educators to do so is unreasonable, unrealistic and dangerous.

Let teachers do what they do best.

Let law enforcement do what it's supposed to do:

Serve and protect.

Mannix About Manatee, by columnist Vin Mannix, is about people and issues in Manatee County. Call Vin at 941-745-7055. Twitter:@vinmannix

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