Polk Co Sheriff, Southeastern Univ. swear in special deputies to carry guns on campus

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. (WFLA) – The first graduates of Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd’s Sentinel Program have completed training.

The sheriff’s department joined up with Southeastern University to enhance campus security for students, faculty and staff at the University’s campus in Lakeland.

This first-of-its-kind program will provide law-enforcement training to select university faculty and staff to allow them to carry a concealed firearm “for the purpose of rapidly responding to an active assailant on campus to stop a potential deadly threat.”

Judd and representatives from Southeastern University talked about the importance of the program and Vice President for Student Development Chris Owen will be sworn in as a Special Deputy Sheriff. Nine special deputies in total completed the program.

Firearms aren’t normally allowed on campuses but this program makes it possible.

Key components of the Sheriff’s Sentinel Program are:

  • Faculty and staff are selected by the University for the Program and screened by PCSO staff, including criminal background checks, drug testing, and a psychological evaluation.
  • Sheriff’s Sentinels will be appointed by the Sheriff as volunteer “Special Deputies” for the limited purpose of providing security on Southeastern University’s campus during an active assailant incident, defined as: “a situation in which an armed assailant is posing an immediate deadly threat to people on the premises of Southeastern University.”
  • Why Special Deputies? To take advantage of PCSO professional training and to provide a legal mechanism for staff and faculty to carry a concealed firearm on campus. (Florida State Statues, Chapter 30)
  • The Special Deputy Sheriffs shall have no authority to act in any law enforcement capacity outside of a deadly threat active assailant incident on campus and shall have no authority in a law enforcement capacity off campus in any way.
  • Special Deputy Sheriffs in the Sentinel Program are authorized to carry concealed, approved firearms on campus. 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.
  • Special Deputy Sheriffs in the Sentinel Program will be required to successfully complete training with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office Training Section prior to his or her appointment, which will consist of 100 hours of comprehensive firearm safety and proficiency training. Special Deputy Sheriff Sentinel Program Training: (132 total hours)
  • Firearms: 80 hour block of instruction. This firearms training is based on the CJSTC law enforcement academy training model. A typical academy student will fire approximately 1,000 training rounds during the academy. The Sentinel Program Training will include 10-20% more rounds fired for each participant.
  • Firearms: Precision Pistol / 16 hour block of instruction.
  • Firearms Discretionary Shooting: 4 hour block of instruction using state of the art simulator exercises.
  • Active Shooter/Assailant: 8 hour block of instruction.
  • Defensive Tactics: 4 hour block of instruction.
  • Legal / High Liability: 20 hour block of instruction.
  • All training will be conducted by CJSTC-certified instructors.
  • Ongoing and annual proficiency retraining will be conducted by the PCSO.
  • Higher Standards: The 100 hour block of firearms instruction is 25% more instruction than the equivalent block of CJSTC law enforcement firearms instruction deputies receive (80 hours). Additionally, Sentinel Program participants will be required to pass the firearms training at an 85% pass rate compared to the CJSTC standard of an 80% pass rate. The 16 hour precision pistol course is additional training (not required for deputy sheriffs). The 4 hour block discretionary shooting instruction is a separate training for the Sentinel Program (incorporated into the 80 hour block of instruction). Sentinels will receive 8 hours of active shooter/assailant training (deputies receive 6 hours training). Participation in the Sentinel Program may be denied or terminated by the Polk County Sheriff’s Office for any reason, including:
  • Any arrest or filing of criminal charges against the participant by a law enforcement agency; Having been served as the respondent of an injunction for protection; Having been involuntarily placed in a treatment facility for a mental health examination under the Baker Act;
  • A serious violation of PCSO General Orders;
  • A serious violation of the Southeastern University Employee Handbook/Policy.

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