Lloyd Police Department. (courtesy townofflloyd.com)

“Sean McCutcheon—an officer in the Lloyd, N.Y., police department and a school resource officer (SRO) for Highland Central School District [somewhere in the picture above]—accidentally discharged his gun at 1:38 p.m. Tuesday in the hallway of Highland High School,” usatoday.com reports. I think the word they’re looking for is “negligently.” Oh wait. Maybe not. “No information has been released on why the gun went off, and the department’s investigation is continuing.” One of those “gun going off” deals eh? I don’t think that means what they think it means. Meanwhile, the town suspended its SRO program. According to stargazette.com, “Administrators were exploring hiring trained security personnel with law enforcement backgrounds and allowing them to carry their side arms in the building.” Nope. Not good enough. Let’s review . . .

As a graduate of the SIG SAUER Active Shooter Trainers course, I can tell you that an active shooter scenario in or near a school presents a very specific set of challenges for anyone attempting to save innocent life. To counter a school shooter you need to be fast, smart, experienced, accurate, careful and deadly. And not necessarily in that order.

During an attack, an armed defender could face booby traps, smoke bombs, bombs, multiple shooters, shooters masquerading as students, friendly fire, etc. We’re not just talking about Adam Lanza-style “lone wolf” crimes either. A terrorist attack (remember them?) could be a highly coordinated assault backed by serious firepower. It might continue for days.

When the you-know-what starts flying, a cop with a gun is better than nothing. Training or no training. But if we’re assuming (as we should) that a school resource officer (stupid name) doesn’t have to be a cop, then we can consider the idea that cops and ex-cops are a lousy choice for this line of work. In fact, they’re a particularly bad idea for the following reasons . . .

1. They look like cops

Active shooters aren’t stupid. And they are motivated. If they know an armed cop stands between them and their evil intentions they will kill the armed cop before moving on to other targets. In that sense, a uniformed cop in a school might as well wear a big badge labeled “shoot me first.”

Balanced against that: the deterrent effect of a shiny badge and a police uniform. Yes, well, counting on active shooters to be cowards—to take the path of least resistance by attacking a school without a cop—is a fundamentally flawed strategy. What if they don’t?

Would the Columbine killers have chosen another school? Adam Lanza may have chosen a different target if he’d known that Sandy Hook Elementary had a cop in situ. But we don’t know that for a fact. We do know that most spree killers carefully plan their assault (e.g. Anders Behring Breivik).

Putting a uniformed officer in a school is not entirely security theater for concerned parents and politicians. Common sense suggests that it has some deterrent effect on active shooters. But I reckon it’s not enough of an advantage to overcome the benefits of hiring an SRO who isn’t a cop.

2. They act like cops

You can have the world’s most highly-decorated SWAT officer strolling through your school—ready, willing and able to kick some active shooter ass—but he’ll still be a cop. Not only does he represent authority, but he’ll project it. Physically, through the uniform. Culturally, through their attitude and interactions.

While a uniformed RSO should know what to do in the event of an active shooter (note: should), he or she loses much of his or her ability to prevent spree killing. Their obvious status as a law enforcement makes gathering mission critical intel from the student population difficult.

High schoolers drink illegally, smoke pot, engage in underage sex and generally do things that they don’t want their parents, school administrators and especially the police to know about. Culturally, it’s not cool to pal-up with the po-po. A uniformed RSO is, generally speaking, out of the loop. That’s not a good place to be before, during or after an active shooter attacks.

3. They think like cops

Cops are like airline pilots: they endure long periods of extreme boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror. OK, adrenalin-pumped activity. Cops deal with the boredom by interacting with their brother and sister officers and cruising their beat.

A uniformed RSO is isolated from other cops. As stated above, they’re pretty much isolated from the school population, too. So they slip even deeper into a state of boredom than usual and, let’s face it, switch off.

I have no idea how an RSO came to fire his Glock .45 in a school but I’d bet dollars to donuts (so to speak) boredom played a part. What were you thinking when you took your gun out Officer McCutcheon? I guess I wasn’t Chief. No. No he wasn’t.

A negligent discharge is bad enough. Being caught napping (perhaps literally) by an active shooter or shooters would be immeasurably worse. But cops can’t help it. They’re trained to react to crime not prevent it or, more to the point, actively guard against it. Retraining them? Good luck with that.

The Alternative

The NRA says cops in schools are the answer to the threat of spree killing or terrorist attack. Wrong. It’s an answer. It’s not the answer.

The answer to this problem—which is not going away no matter how many unconstitutional civilian disarmament laws are inflicted on law-abiding citizens—is a non-uniformed force of School Resource Officers.

Individuals who can ming with the kids. Men and women with the right mindset and skill set for the job, including active shooter interdiction training. People armed with a concealed carry weapon wth access to body armor and an AR-15-stye rifle.

The answer also includes training-up and coordinating armed parents, teachers or administrators. The sooner we face the fact that our safety requires a measured and appropriate response outside of the law enforcement community, the safer our children will be.

33 Responses to Cops in Schools? We Can Do Better Than That!

  1. PUBLIC SAFETY DIRECTOR: We really can’t afford this, what with budget cuts and all, but the mayor asked the chief to send a cop. Earl… you the one chosen. Have an “accident” in the hall and we’re off the hook.

  2. “…training-up and coordinating armed parents, teachers or administrators. The sooner we face this fact the safer our children will be.”

    This demands personal responsibility, fortitude, and the willingness to take action as individuals and a community rather than wait to be spoonfed by the inept and corrupt government. Does that sound like modern America to you?

  3. Your scenario depends on a special skillset and training, above and beyond normal LE. I’m not knocking it, but I propose that this, along with Uniformed SROs (RSOs?), as well as motivated and eligible School staffers with CHL/CCW authorization, should all be used. Some of these cost more than others, obviously, and at some point, hopefully, the use of (not so) common sense self-sufficiency should take hold.

    • “eligible School staffers” – I assume you mean any US CITIZEN (the 2nd Amendment is all they need). Use your CCW and “authorization” down at the restroom.

      I’ll assume parents, as I do, trust the teachers with the most valuable things in their life (the kids) to teach/train/mold because if this is not the case they are moral degenerates for not removing the kids from the school, community, state. But won’t trust the teacher with a firearm? If the teacher is too stupid, irresponsible, foolish to carry a handgun how can you give them a young skull full of mush?

      • By “eligible” I obviously meant those who are legally able to own a firearm (see form 4473). By “authorized”, I obviously meant those with a valid CHL/CCW depending on which state – not all states are constitutional carry.

  4. Pretty much every SRO I’ve ever known couldn’t hit anything with a service weapon if they tried anyway…not surprised there was no injury.

    Seriously, WTF is a gun doing out of the holster inside the building anyway, unless there is an active shooter in the hallway with them?

  5. The SRO at the high school my kids attended was a uniformed city police officer and had a patrol car parked out front. He was also the truancy officer who would go knocking on the doors of kids with attendance issues. And I think he was also a licensed counselor. So are we going to take one incident in one school involving one officer and condemn the entire program, a program that has been in effect in many schools for many years? Isn’t this an overreaction somewhere on the scale of Sandy Hook?

  6. I don’t doubt your preferred solution (non-uniformed SROs + armed teachers and parents) would be the most effective means to stop spree killers at schools.

    But there is really a cost-benefit issue here. Spree killers are rare, and getting rarer still. Outfitting every school with armed, trained SROs, who have a weapons locker with body armor and M4s in it, is a seriously expensive proposition.

    On the other hand, teacher (and parent volunteers with CCW) costs next to nothing.

    My question would be: is the additional safety/security from the SROs worth the massive expense to protect from an extremely rare event?

    • So we just disarm the people and collect 300 million guns instead. outside of the obvious constitutional costs, that dollar cost will be magnitudes higher than any security force trained for school shooters, without actually preventing the next disaster.

    • Did anyone check the scene for a vagrant shotgun? Those have been known to fire other weapons just for the hell of it.

  7. SRO’s, and no disrespect intended, usually seem to be the officers who are either at the business end of retiring or a beat cop who is too worn out to run patrols or walk the streets, etc. Like I said no disrespect intended but that seems to be the case in a lot of the schools I have seen.
    Most of the LEO’s in our area are good guys and do their jobs fairly well. But hiring officers to replace the SRO’s is costly. The average LEO here makes between $30-$40,000 a year. When you pull an officer off of street duty/patrol then you have to, or should, replace them thus doubling the cost of the Dept’s budget.
    The cost of training, a weapon and ammo for a year for a volunteer SRO(former military, retired police, etc) would average between $1500 – $2000 per person for the first year and around $1200 per person per year after the first year. LEO’s: $30,000 + per year every year not counting raises, vacation, benefits etc.
    Train the volunteers by putting them through the Reserve Officers training requirements and when they Successfully graduate swear them in as Reserve Officers with jurisdiction only in the Schools during school hours or at school events unless called into duty by the sheriff during an actual emergency!!

  8. I’m not an expert in this matter, but I’ve worked at a public high school for better than 20 years. When we first got SRO’s the kids were skittish of them because of the novelty of having a cop on campus. But that quickly changes as they are amongst the kids day in and day out. Soon the kids are standing around BS’ing with the SRO’s and relationships develope that make his job easier and their lives safer on campus. I believe that SRO’s have a place on campus.

    I also believe school staff with ccw and parent volunteers with guns also have a place on campus. At a large high school a uniformed SRO and 5-6 armed parent volunteers as his posse would provide quite a formidable deterrence. Carry that concept into all schools and the kids would be a lot safer than any AWB would make them.

  9. If the need arose, I would volunteer, wholeheartedly, to work as a resourse officer at one of the schools nearby my home. I would not hesitate to take a day or two off work a month to walk and/or patrol them on a volunteer basis. Whatever training necessary, I’ll do it, at no cost to the district. I’m also sure that many others would do the same.

    • +1, but I wouldn’t mind a weapons locker to store my personal M&P rifle in if the poop got too deep

  10. Robert your right. But you also seem to assume that people who match the description above are readily available in our school systems. I don’t believe that is really the case. Unfortunately this is just not something we can force to happen and have it work well. It has to be something an individual does voluntarily for their school and it has to at least not be stigmatized by the school administration and staff for it to be effective. It could be done via grants to individual already in the school system such as teachers, administrators, and other staff to acquire specialized training with approval from the school administration. Those individuals would then have permission to carry concealed on the campus and perhaps maintain other equipment in a secured location such as a rifle and/or armor although honestly I think training someone to take the time to retrieve such items would have a severe impact on their ability to mitigate a rapidly executed attack.

    This would not be quickly adopted and may not even be widely adopted. However making it available and educating the public on it’s availability would allow some schools to take advantage. When those schools show that there is no real impact on student safety because of the program others may follow. I also think it’s appropriate to remove the restrictions on CCW holders from carrying on campuses without approval of the school administration but allowing the administration to require school employees to notify them that they will be carrying would go a long way to encourage them to take advantage of the voluntary training program.

  11. IMO, there is no one size fits all solution to this problem.Permiting staff with CCW permits to carry would be the most practical option, except lots of places in America like urban California and New Jersey ban the practice. A school in those states has no choice but to rely on the police for armed security.

    For those places, I’d rather have a bored, lazy, inept cop on duty then the empty chair the poor kids at Sandy Hook had for a security resource.

  12. While SRO’s do present a partial solution, I can’t help but keep believing that encouraging teachers to get their CCW and carry in the classroom is still the best deterrent. It costs next to nothing, puts the protection in the classroom with the kids, where it should be, and provides for not just one, but possibly over a dozen armed defenders.

    Arm teachers and I guarantee that these school shootings will be stopped.

  13. It is not the gun, the badge, the uniform, you have to have an individual that takes the security and well being of the students seriously. I am thinking most LEOs don’t relish the role of of being the “Kiddie Cop”. Not sure that so called “well trained” LEOs should even be considered for the job. A parent with a vested interest in keeping his/her kid safe from harm, as well as all the others, would seem the place to start. Anyone should be well vetted before they are given the responsibility. For all the excellent, I am sure, training facilities, for citizens, and police, a man/woman with military training, Marine/Paratrooper/Infantry, and perhaps more specialized unit members, will have an edge. Minimum age 30.

  14. I am seriously getting tired of this attempt to repeatedly make LEOs some sort of “ultra powerful gun ninja” that will solve all of our problems for us. Most of them are not gun people one bit.

  15. +1 on not looking like a cop.

    About 18 months ago I took a defensive carbine course at Sig with John Farnum.

    Prior to the start of the first days class a bunch of students gathered in the hall outside of the classrooms. Amongst them was the only woman a short, gray haired, grandmother type. I remember thinking that it was great that there was at least one woman in the class.

    She turned out to be Vicki Farnum, John’s wife and an instructor. I never would have guessed.

    She looked like your average grandmother, that is if Grandma had a plate of chocolate chip cookies in one hand and an M1 carine in the other.

  16. Hire plainclothes SRO’s to do custodial work. Kid’s have no problem with talking to the custodians because they’re just regular Joes. If they’re cleaning they won’t get bored and do something stupid like pulling their gun out when it’s not needed.

    Or was it the SRO’s shotgun that pulled the trigger?

  17. SROs, RSOs, volunteers — it doesn’t really matter if incidents like this one become fairly common. Pretty soon the public will view this “force” in much the same way as the TSA — good in theory, bad in practice. If so, it would be a costly political loss for the NRA.

  18. If we place SRO’s into every school, they are no longer the same deterrent as if one school has them when the next one does not. the shooter will just assume this as the norm and deal with it. Just like they deal with locked doors or metal detectors.

    we need to make a school to be no-more of a target as your local mall. this does not exclude cops or SROs or undercover security but I think the first step needs to be to remove the gun-free zone aspect for adults in schools. If the adults want to carry just as they do outside the school, fine. If they choose to attend special training, make it available to them.
    at least here in FL, one in ~18 people have a cwp. if that ratio is just slightly increased by offering discounts, educations, training to school employees, you could offset the large ratio of minors, compared to a mall. with that making it no more attractive as a target than any place else.

    I don’t have much problem with minor students facing stiffer penalties for bringing actual guns to school but the blanket approach of the current gunfree zones is not working. punishing students does not require laws, the schools already have those powers.

  19. The gun didn’t go off. He is an American LEO, which means there’s a 99% chance he was carrying a Glock, which means the only way the firing pin was released is that he pulled the trigger. He’s an idiot, and his badge should be yanked for this, but the gun literally cannot be to blame for this.

  20. You need to take the Sandy Hook shooters name out of this article. Im so tired of seeing these peoples names. They shouldn’t get their name published or said anywhere. They should all just be known as the sicko that shot up “x”

  21. I believe that a blended approach may work best.A visibly armed presence will prevent many of the shootings we’ve seen, as many of the shooters have been cowards attacking the most vulnerable, the least likely to pose resistance and by taking their own lives BEFORE confrontation. Granted, your scenario would work best for those that are not deterred, but discouraging the attack in the first place would be a huge step.

  22. Good article, however it states “The NRA says cops in schools are the answer to the threat of spree killing or terrorist attack. Wrong. It’s an answer. It’s not the answer.” However this is an incorrect statement. The NRA provided this as “AN” answer. The NRA School Shield provided multiple approaches: “Arming school personnel is the first of eight recommendations included in the plan. Among the other ideas: an online self-assessment tool that schools can use to evaluate their facilities and safety policies; changes to state laws to allow school personnel to carry guns while they’re in training; increasing coordination among law enforcement agencies; encouraging states to make school safety part of their educational requirements; making the task force a permanent group; creating a pilot program to assess threats and mental health; and increasing federal funding for school safety.”

    http://firstread.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/04/02/17570190-nra-backed-task-force-pushes-to-arm-teachers-school-staff?lite

  23. I worked as an SRO for six years. You have no clue how much information students are willing to pass to SRO’s if you earn that trust.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *