WINTER HAVEN, Fla. (WFLA) — Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd held up one of his cards showing a picture of two Polk County deputies in a school hallway with guns and summed up PSCO’s school safety policy in what he called “Polk County vernacular.”
“This is the last thing you’ll see before we put a bullet through your head if you’re trying to hurt our children,” Judd said. “We’re going to shoot you graveyard dead.”
Judd addressed his office’s procedures for situations in the wake of the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, that killed 19 students and two teachers.
Reports have said the shooter in Uvalde entered the school through an unlocked door and was inside the school for almost an hour before law enforcement went in.
Judd called that “unacceptable.”
He attributed the response to a likely lack of training.
According to Judd, Florida law enforcement is trained to individually engage an active threat once on site.
“If they’re shooting at us, they’re not shooting at the children,” Judd said.
He also used the press conference as a call to action, specifically speaking about the Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program, named after the coach who died heroically shielding kids during the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting.
Judd stood alongside the parents of a teenager murdered in the Parkland Shooting. Ryan and Kelly Petty’s daughter Alaina was murdered at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School.
They have been activists ever since, calling for more school security.
Ryan Petty says he’s angered by the response to the school shooter in Texas.
“That video made me angry and I want to know what was going on out there,” Petty said. “There was a lot of law enforcement standing outside of that school and it took an hour to stop this threat,
Judd said his deputies are trained to go in directly after an active shooter.
The program trains school employees as armed personnel to respond to active shooter situations on school property, something Judd said is very important.
“When the threat is there and you dial 911 on that cellphone, we’re too late,” Judd said.
Judd cited data that shows the average police response is over five minutes. That’s opposed to an active shooting which he said take just a few minutes on average.
“When seconds count, minutes don’t make any difference,” he said.
The program was established as part of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, which was passed after the 2018 shooting in Parkland. The the main goal of the bill was to increase school safety measures.
He said many of those measures enacted in that piece of legislation were already being done in Polk County prior to 2018.
“When you take your kids to school healthy and well in the morning, you have every right and expectation to receive them back in the afternoon in the same healthy state you delivered them in,” Judd said.
Judd emphasized they’re always looking for ways to improve, but overall he feels Florida law enforcement is “light years” ahead of other states in terms of active shooter training.