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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Fake gunman, real learning experience
School resource officers take training from the classroom to the hallways in a shooting simulation.
By HELEN ANNE TRAVIS, Times Staff Writer
Published August 2, 2007
Pasco County Deputies do a systematic search of the hallways of Wesley Chapel High School during an active shooter exercise for county school resource officers.
[Times photo | Mike Pease]
[Times photo | Mike Pease]
This training emphasized the importance of law enforcement personnel to quickly engage a shooter on a school campus, instead of waiting for more manpower to arrive in the form of the SWAT team or other specialty units, to prevent loss of life or injury to students and faculty.
WESLEY CHAPEL - Chris Ryan yanked on the locked door of a Wesley Chapel High School classroom.
"Open the door," the 17-year-old shouted. "You're all going to die!"
Behind him, a trio of Pasco school resource officers slunk through the hallway, their guns pointed in front of them.
"Bang bang," Ryan shouted, brandishing his blue rubber gun - and then he ran. He was caught, eventually, which was one of the objects of the exercise.
Wednesday was Active Shooter Training Day for Pasco school resource officers. The officers spent the morning in the classroom watching PowerPoint presentations and learning statistics on past school shootings. The afternoon was for real-life training.
For school resource officers, the 1999 shooting at Colorado's Columbine High School changed everything.
"Before, the philosophy was to wait for the SWAT team to get into place and then move in," said Doug Tobin, a Pasco County Sheriff's Office spokesman. "And then after the tragic incidence at Columbine, the philosophy now is to engage the shooter immediately."
The training takes place once a year. But throughout the year Pasco SROs attend numerous sessions on maintaining school safety.
"When you're in a high stress situation, your fine motor skills, your high-level thinking skills, they all resort back to your training," said Sgt. James Law, school resource officer supervisor.
Outside the school Wednesday, Cpl. Lenny Longo, a trainer for the Sheriff's Office, whispered to Ryan, the fake gunman.
"Let them find you," Longo said. "Let them walk right past you and then you stand up and whack them."
Ryan ran across the school courtyard and jumped into a planter.
Ryan, a senior at Berkeley Preparatory School in Tampa, is a member of the Pasco Sheriff's Office Explorer program, designed to guide high school students interested in becoming officers. Five explorers participated in Wednesday's training.
Three school resource officers spotted Ryan behind the planter. There was shouting, there was fake gunfire. There was a split-second when the officers and the boy debated who had been shot.
Back in the classroom a few dozen school resource officers waited for their turn to apprehend the fake gunman.
Cpl. John Peteck, the 2007 school resource officer of the year for Pasco County, leaned against a counter. He described his typical duties - maintaining order, investigating crime and giving classroom presentations on forensics and search and seizure techniques.
School resource officers are former road deputies. Peteck has worked as an SRO for five years, after 20 on the road. Generally their salary and benefits packages are split between the school district and the police department.
"Most of the job is counseling," Peteck said.
At Hudson High, where he worked last year, he built rapport by visiting the kids at lunch time. "I'd go down and sit with them, and we'd just talk.
"A lot of the time, if you show kids respect, they show it back to you," he said.