PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — School security in today’s world involves many things: prevention, intervention, and diversion.
It also involves training for the possibility that all of that is not enough to keep an active shooter, or other active threat, from targeting our school children. The deadly mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is never far from the minds of those tasked with dealing with that nightmarish scenario.
That’s why WPTV watched Palm Beach County School District police going through intensive drills recently with a near empty local school as their training ground.
The threat can surface fast. The response needs to be faster and laser focused. Officers with (training only) assault rifles simulated building entries, classroom sweeps, and much more. An exercise only, but practiced with real world intensity.
Officer Jose Perez was part of that single officer, and multi-officer, training.
"We are here to make sure no outside threats are coming into the schools and we are here to stop that threat," said Officer Perez.
Palm Beach County School District police officers, their bosses say, undergo 160 hours of training each year. Training instructors are critiquing every move.
Sgt. Rob Katz is the training supervisor. Nothing misses his attention.
"We don't have a chance to get it wrong. We make sure they are doing it right," said Sgt. Katz.
Rick McDermott spent 27 years on the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office SWAT Team. His daily beat, when he is not training, is Sandpiper Shores Elementary School in west Boca Raton. He’s got a big smile, but his eyes fix on you and his voice turns to steel when he talks about protecting children.
"God forbid that monster shows up on your campus," said McDermott. "[You] have to be there and annihilate and neutralize that threat very quickly. You are there and those kids look at you and they are there and they know you are there to protect them."
It is a commitment to readiness on the most important beat there is.
🔽 INTERVIEW WITH CHIEF FRANK KITZEROW 🔽