BABSON PARK, Fla. — A second university in Polk County has announced that they will be joining a program that will allow its staff and faculty to legally carry guns on campus.
The announcement comes just eight days after a gunman opened fire on a Florida high school killing 17 people.
The Polk County Sheriff's Office, in partnership with Webber International University, is establishing the Sheriff's Sentinel Program to enhance the safety of an already safe and secure community of students, faculty, staff, and guests at the University's campus in Babson Park, Florida.
"Prayers are not enough," said Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd in a press conference on Thursday. “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun."
Sheriff Judd explained that each teacher or staff member will have to go through extensive training through the program before they are given a gun.
"My babies — your babies — are in that classroom, and that active shooter is coming down the hallway with that thousand yard stare and that gun in their hand, do you want somebody to step out and stop him? Or do you want him to go into the classroom and slaughter your babies?" -Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd
The Sentinel Program was first rolled out in December 2016 at Southeastern University.
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 Webber International 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 the 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 Statutes, 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 Sheriff's 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 Sheriff's Sentinel Program. Only PCSO-approved concealed carry safety holsters and firearms will be used in the program.
- Special Deputy Sheriffs in the Sheriff's 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 Sheriff's 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 University Employee Handbook/Policy.
- Documentation will be maintained of the following aspects of the program: weapon and equipment inspections, participants' training, certification, inspection and qualification records.
- Sentinel participants will be required to be clearly visually identified (for the benefit of responding law enforcement officers, faculty, staff, and students) in the case of any active assailant incident.
- Sentinel Program awareness training will be conducted for all WIU staff members.
- Each Sentinel will be required to execute a volunteer agreement with the Polk County Sheriff's Office outlining duties and responsibilities.
Costs of the program shall be determined by contract between Webber International University and the Polk County Sheriff's Office.