Recently, a school resource officer in Miami, FL was placed in an all-too-common situation where he had a duty to act after three suspects fled from police on a traffic stop and led the Florida Highway Patrol on a wild tri-county car chase from Collier County to the city of Miami Gardens, FL.
The suspects were travelling at a high rate of speed without any regard for human life whatsoever and barely missed the school police officer’s vehicle as he backed out of harm’s way when they intentionally drove straight at him and missed, and the suspects continued northbound on the turnpike. Why was the school resource officer involved, anyway, you might ask?
Moments earlier, the Miami Dade Police Headquarters dispatcher had asked any available units to join in assisting and backing up the lone FHP officer who was directly behind but falling far behind the suspects’ vehicle, and this school resource officer, because of his duty to act, calmly informed dispatch he was standing by and ready to take action.
It turns out he was the only police officer in the area and if he had not taken initiative, all of the suspects may have gotten away Scot-free in the end!
A few minutes later, local news channel NBC 6 via a live feed from a helicopter up above, showed the school resource officer holding two of the subjects at gunpoint as they tried to hide in bushes before backup arrived and the suspects were arrested.
For those of you who are interested in a job as a school resource officer and for those of you who carry the mistaken notion that being a school police officer is not as dangerous as being a cop in other police departments, think again. For school cops, they know this all too well; this incident is merely another a sobering reminder of one of the many life-threatening moments they will face in their careers.
In fact, school policing can be just as, and even more dangerous in certain areas than virtually any other municipal police department for a number of reasons which include the astounding number of firearms and knives taken from students and adults on a yearly basis in and around schools.
Here’s an example of the types of calls and dangers faced by a Miami School cop who adds his experience is “just average” in comparison to the dangers faced by his fellow officers:
- He has responded to “shots fired” within blocks from his police vehicle on many occasions and has arrested countless students and adults armed with guns and knives in and around schools.
- He has chased armed suspects who have committed violent crimes through the streets and backyards of homes near schools in an attempt to stop them from victimizing other citizens. He mentions how as a police officer, you don’t stop to think about how a subject could have easily turned around to shoot you between the eyes until you disarm them, take them into custody, and take a moment to reflect on what might have happened.
- On many occasions, he has responded as backup for other police agencies because of his “duty to act” and has taken subjects into custody for these police agencies. Oftentimes, he has been the first officer on the scene of the most dangerous call in police work; the dreaded “domestic disturbance” call.
- He’s handled a handful of difficult calls involving subjects with A.I.D.S.
“I once responded to a call in Westchester regarding an out-of-control parent causing a disturbance at a school,” says the officer. When I arrived, the parent told me it was in my best interest to stay away from her because she had full-blown A.I.D.S. Using my crisis intervention skills, I was able to reason with this woman and enlisted the help of her family members to resolve the situation and get her much-needed help. I didn’t have to place my hands on her but what if I was forced to, in order to save another person?”
- He has had a handful of near-crashes responding to emergency calls forging my way through and sometimes, against traffic. I respond to an average of 3 emergency calls a week; that’s over 150 times a year where I am traveling 20 miles over the speed limit and trying my best to reach my destination in one piece!
- He has consistently conducted traffic stops and issued appropriate citations around school properties. His jurisdiction is 1,000 feet surrounding the school properties and the streets adjacent to and abutting the schools. This officer says,” Word to the wise; only one out of every four vehicles you stop will be parents of students who are generally considered harmless. The other 75% are outsiders who can pose a substantial threat to you and the schools at any given moment. We have to be prepared because you will have to arrest many drivers in your career and a handful of them will try to fight you as you try to place them in custody. We give yourself the best chance to stay safe by approaching every stopped vehicle as if your life depends on it. we follow each and every movement of the driver’s hands as they reach into their compartments.
- He has had had to break up numerous student and adult fights, some of them on the street, and has been injured twice in his career as a result. If you want to be a school police officer, he says, expect the likeliness of having to be transported to the emergency department of an area hospital at some point in your career.
Based on conversations I have had with other school cops, I can literally go on and on with other examples but I think you get the idea! If you are a rookie police officer or someone who is considering a job as a school police officer, I hope this puts things into perspective for you.
If you are a civilian, i hope you realize the importance of having school police at our schools for the protection of our precious children and the peace of mind for us adults.
School cops have an opportunity to become one of the most well-rounded police officers in their areas because they will not only have to deal with regular police work on a daily basis; they will have the chance to mentor many kids, become a major influence in children’s lives, and become a pillar of strength in their assigned school’s community.