LAKELAND, FL (WFLA) — Staff at Southeastern University in Polk County will soon be armed with more than school supplies. They’ll be armed with concealed firearms to defend themselves and students if there is ever an active shooter situation on campus.
“If you show up on campus with a gun, we’re going to shoot you graveyard dead if you try to hurt our kids,” Sheriff Grady Judd said.
Southeastern University and the Polk County Sheriff’s Office are partnering together for the first “Sentinel Program” in the state of Florida. The goal of the program is to enhance safety for students, faculty, staff and guests of the campus.
The program authorizes and trains university employees to carry concealed firearms on campus. The sheriff’s office says the purpose is to rapidly respond to an active assailant on campus.
“The law simply says people can’t carry guns on campus, so who can? Law enforcement can. So, I am swearing them in as special deputies,” Sheriff Grady Judd said.
“Every time you turn on the news and see an incident like this that takes place, in my position, you ask yourself what else can we do?” Southeastern University Vice President of Student Operations, Chris Owen said.
Owens is one of the nine staff members currently going through the training. “Parents trust you when they drop their students off, that you have done everything you can to protect,” Owens said.
Faculty and staff were selected by the university for the program and were screened by PCSO staff. The screenings include criminal background checks, drug testing, and a psychological evaluation. Participants are also required to complete more than 100 hours of firearm safety and proficiency training with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office. Sheriff Grady Judd said the training is more intense than what deputies go through.
The firearms will be specifically purchased and issued for the sole purpose of the Sentinel Program. Only PCSO-approved concealed carry safety holsters and firearms will be used in the program.
According to a United States Department of Justice study, between the years 2000 and 2013 there were 160 “active shooter” incidents in the US. An “active shooter” is defined as “An individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area with a firearm.”
Nine staff members will be sworn-in sometime in May as special deputies. They will only have authority in an imminent situation.
Tune in to WFLA News Channel 8 at 6 for a closer look at their training.
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