‘We don’t have time to wait on Tallahassee’: Putnam County sheriff announces program to allow trained school personnel to act as special deputies

‘We don’t have time to wait on Tallahassee’: Putnam County sheriff announces program to allow trained school personnel to act as special deputies

Jacksonville, FL – The Putnam County Sheriff’s Office is announcing a bold program to keep students safe in schools.

Sheriff Gator DeLoach says his sheriff’s office and the Putnam County School District are in the final stages of implementing a plan to provide comprehensive firearms training to certain school personnel and allowing those specially selected employees to carry concealed firearms on school campuses.

"We know that if an attacker enters a school, we only have a few select minutes to stop the threat. Highly qualified and well-trained special deputy sheriffs can successfully augment our youth resource deputies and save lives should the unthinkable happen," says DeLoach.

Sheriff says response from parents, teachers & students has been “overwhelmingly positive.” Have NOT made any of this public until now. @ActionNewsJax

— Russell Colburn (@RussellANjax) February 28, 2018

DeLoach says the program will be called STAR, which stands for the Sheriff’s Trained Armed Response Program. Faculty and staff that wish to be involved can volunteer, but will have to go through a stringent selection process.

"Faculty and staff who are specially selected for the program will be screened by PCSO staff, which will include criminal background checks, drug testing, interviews, and a psychological evaluation," explains DeLoach.

He says program participants will be appointed by the sheriff as volunteer special deputies for the limited purpose of providing security on Putnam County School District properties, during an active assailant incident, where an armed assailant poses an immediate threat.

DeLoach says these special deputies will have no authority to act in a law enforcement capacity off campus, unless they are in active pursuit of an armed assailant who has just committed an attack on students.

As part of the program, participants will only be allowed to use PCSO approved concealed carry safety holsters and firearms.

In order to qualify, DeLoach says participants will have to complete what he calls rigorous training, which will include well over 100 hours of comprehensive firearm safety and proficiency training. He says the training model they plan to use is based on the state of Florida Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission Law Enforcement Training Model. In addition, there will be ongoing and annual safety and proficiency training for STAR participants.

DeLoach says participants will be required to be clearly identified for the benefit of staff, students, and responding law enforcement, in the case of an active shooter incident, but otherwise, they will function in an undercover capacity.

In his closing remarks, DeLoach says while he supports Florida Governor Rick Scott’s school safety proposal, he says we don’t have time to wait on Tallahassee or Washington to keep students safe.

"Make no mistake about it, if you attack our schools it will be the last thing you ever do," warns DeLoach.

We’re told the cost of the program will be initially funded by the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office.

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