May 21, 2013 12:03 am ET
Retired police and military to be tapped as armed security. Positions will be part time leaving open the question of liability.
A reliable source inside county government confirmed a tip I received that Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz is expected to announce sometime in mid-April a proposal that will place armed security in all of the county’s 105 elementary schools in the form of retired police and military personnel.
This move would not impact the county’s current policy of having police known as SROs (School Resource Officers) who are stationed in our middle and high schools.
As a local blogger I often receive many calls from various sources concerning events that impact the community. I make it a practice to follow up on this information with corroboration from additional reliable sources. This is one of those cases where I think the community should be involved right from the start, taking the politics out of the issue.
At this point it is strictly a proposal but I noticed a distinct tone in the responses I received that there are certain political overtones that come into play. You may ask how this does happen, well here is my view.
First the tragedy in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting set the wheels in motion for the government to take action in the wake of this horrific event.
In this state, the reverberations were felt from the State House to the White House. In fact, it became such an issue that Baltimore County Police Chief Jim Johnson testified before Congress.
This issue also drew a strong response on Patch from readers concerning gun control. There were pro and con debates for quite some time.
An interesting sidebar to this blog is the comment made by Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller in Marge Neal’s story on the vote by the east side delegation concerning the death penalty and Mr. Miller’s comments on how it would impact our teachers. Is there a connection or motivation to Mr. Kamenetz’s proposal? You decide.
It appears the security provided to the elementary schools will be in the hands of retired police officers and military personnel. When you consider the budget issue, it would make sense for the county to use part-time workers who would work without benefits. The question now becomes one of liability.
One county official who did not want his name used said, “Any retired officer who would take this job should think long and hard. What happens if there is an incident? What happens if the officer is faced with a child custody issue, or has to use his weapon? What happens if they get hurt?”
These are all legitimate concerns and will need to be addressed.
After confirming the tip I received through my source I contacted the school board and asked if they were aware of any such plan. I put my concerns in an e-mail as requested by the school system. Here is Spokesman Charles Herndon’s response:
“Thanks for your inquiry, Mr. Beeler. I would like to refer you to the Baltimore County Police for a response to your questions, as the police department oversees the School Resource Officer program in cooperation with county schools. You may contact Elise Armacost with BCPD at 410-887-2210.
School security is a priority for BCPS, as you know, and we look forward to continuing our strong partnership with police and county authorities as together we seek the best ways to ensure the safety and security of our students and schools.”
I sent an e-mail to Ms. Armacost seeking a reply and this was her response:
Baltimore County Police Department continues to work with BCPS on a thorough review of school security measures. That includes a study of what human resources are needed to address school security issues.”
Thanks for your interest,
Director of Media and Communications,
Baltimore County Public Safety
I took this issue a step farther and e-mailed all council members since it involves all elementary schools in their respective districts and a copy to Mr. Don Mohler, chief of staff for the county executive. The basic crux of the correspondence was the why is this necessary and were all of the key players made aware of this?
Again this deals with the issue of transparency regarding our government leaders. I also asked anyone who had an issue with my concerns or information please feel free to correct me.
That does not leave a lot of time for discussion if this announcement is forthcoming, at least in terms of the democratic way.
As my policy, I do not reveal my sources to protect them from potential retaliation. I am interested only in informing the community on the issues, not destroying someone’s career. You see I know firsthand how that works.
(Part Two will reveal the responses from the county)