KISSIMMEE, Fla. – Annual retraining this summer for Osceola County Sheriff’s Office SROs was longer and more intensive than ever before, according to Sheriff Marcos Lopez.
School resource officers extensively drilled active shooter training at actual school campuses for an additional 36 hours last week, making entry, breaching doors, and barging into classrooms as if an active shooter were on the loose inside a school.
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“In the wake of so many things that have been happening across the nation, I don’t want to beat on Uvalde too much, but we need to learn from other people’s mistakes,” Lopez said. “We’re going to be reinforcing this training on top of the 40 hours that we get, on top of the crisis intervention training.”
Lopez said all SROs also spent a full day on the firing range, practicing with handguns and long guns. Lopez is planning to put a gun locker in every school that will house a shotgun or AR-15. SROs trained when to use those and when not to.
“If they have the threat on campus and if it’s a long gun and they’re on their way to that threat, they can grab that rifle and continue forward,” Lopez said. “We’re also training if the threat is a lot closer than that rifle, guess what, you’re going to rely on this handgun and you’re going to go straight to this threat. We have to address these threats as quickly as possible.”
Deputies also drilled what the Sheriff calls the “lone response” — the standard plan now in schools across Central Florida: no resource officer has to wait for permission to enter a school. They are expected to go straight for the shooter.
“And every SRO that we’ve talked to understands this and is here because they want to and are willing to take out a threat,” Lopez said.
They also got a day of crisis intervention training, including roleplaying, learning how to listen, and talking to children in crisis.
“These men and women who do this every day, I haven’t had one who says you know what I don’t want to be in the school anymore,” Lopez said. “We’ve actually had people that are staying as SROs and they’re taking this training seriously and they’re continuing to want to keep our children safe.”
Crime analysts inside the Real Time Crime Center at the sheriff’s office can monitor live video feeds from inside a school in case of a threat, and guide responding SROs and responding deputies to that threat. The sheriff is working on getting all of the cameras at all of the schools connected to feed into the RTCC; currently about half are connected.
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“If an active shooter does want to come to an Osceola County school or is contemplating it, they better be aware they’re going to probably face not only severe consequences under the law but also they could meet their maker,” Lopez said. “Because these SROs are trained and done extra training to make sure they eliminate the threat.”
Also new this year, body cameras for SROs inside high schools — a first for Osceola County. Lopez said he finally found the funding for it and will work to add body cameras in middle and elementary schools next.