School resource officers: Helping keep your kids safe

School resource officers: Helping keep your kids safe
(Source: Tucson News Now)

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Four people in Pima County have been arrested in the past two days for making threats to local schools following the mass shooting at a school in Lakeland, Florida.

The four have been charged with threats and intimidation, which can rise to the level of a felony, and their cases have been turned over to the FBI.

The arrests came from tips from students which led, in some cases to Facebook searches and other social media.

It's just one of the many threats that face school resource officers when there is a school shooting, of which there have been nearly a dozen so far across the nation in 2018.

But when one with the carnage in Florida happens, it raises alarm bells.

"Anytime we see a gun and school mentioned in the same place it's like 'yelling bomb on a plane, fire in a theater, it raises that same alarm," said Pima County Sheriff's Department Deputy Bill Farmer, who has been a school resource officer since the program was reinstated three years ago. "In this day and age, where at in society, it causes an alarm."

For Farmer, the aftermath of a shooting can be stressful because of the number of copycats who make threats and each one needs to be investigated and quickly.

"I have never discounted a threat to a school," Farmer said. "We don't have that luxury in this day and age, we don't have the luxury to be naïve to that."

But for the 13 school resource officers on the Pima County Sheriff's payroll, who have 50 schools to tend to, much of what they do is precipitated by a student who may be concerned or heard something which needs to be checked out.

"Its threatening to a school, they're going to shoot up the place, I'm going to be a shooter, things of that nature, we get alerted to that," Farmer said. "Typically that comes to an SRO first."

Farmer says it's sad that a school resource officer was on campus at the time of the shooting because he likely feels, as Farmer does, that it's his job to prevent it from happening in the first place.

"I like to think the amount of damage that was caused was minimized" with the resource officer on campus.

"I show up at work everyday, wanting to give whatever I've got to my kids," he said. "My first job is to stop these things from happening."

Despite the best efforts, there are no guarantees.

"I wish we could have that crystal ball to look into, to say this person is going to do this down the road," he said. "All we can do really is to investigate."

Cienega High School held a lock down drill on Tuesday, Feb. 13, the day before the shooting in Florida. It took less than three minutes to get all 2,000 students locked down.

They do the drills four times a year preparing for the worst and for an event they hope never happens. But, these days, preparation is the best they've got.

"Back 20 years, we didn't think about that stuff really," said Nemer Hassey, Cienega's principal. "But now this is the current times we're in and you have to think about it, plan ahead and go through scenarios."

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