Sheriff: Arming teachers not 'a good idea'
Multnomah County Sheriff Mike Reese doesn't want teachers packing heat at school.
"There's the possibility of unintended accidents and deaths occurring," Reese explained, "and the liability that the school district would have to accept."
"There's a whole host of reasons I don't think that's a good idea," the former Portland police chief told nationally syndicated talk show host Lars Larson during a syndicated radio broadcast on KXL 101.1 FM on Monday, Feb. 26.
But while the sheriff doesn't want armed educators patrolling the classroom, he's "incredibly confident" that the deputies under his command would respond with courage during a school shooting.
Larson — a combative interviewer with a conservative slant — pushed back, suggesting that school resource officers might be back-benchers compared to the agency's "hard chargers."
"Our mettle has been tested," Reese replied, citing by name the two school resource officers who confronted a 15-year-old who killed a classmate and wounded a teacher at Reynolds High School on June 10, 2014.
Officers Nick Thompson and Kyle Harris were already on campus, Reese noted, and immediately cornered the freshman in a P.E. bathroom. The gunman then fatally shot himself.
"As staff and students were running away from the sound of gunfire, they ran toward it," Reese said of the officers. "But even in that situation, there was still a loss of life."
The Multnomah County Sheriff's Office has five school resource officers, with two posted at Reynolds High School and one each at Reynolds Middle School, Walter Morey Middle School and the Corbett Schools complex.
Gresham has six full-time school resource officers, with one each at Barlow High, Gresham High, Centennial High and H.B. Lee Middle School. Each of the officers sometimes works at the feeder elementary and middle schools when appropriate.
Two other resource officers — including Jarom Sweazey, this year's Reader's Choice winner for best law enforcement officer — work with children who have trouble with attendance or gang involvement, and also help Multnomah County divert juvenile offenders from jail.
"The unit is highly trained and loves serving the community as multiifaceted resources to students and parents, as well as school faculty and staff," noted Sgt. John Rasmussen, spokesman for the Gresham Police Department
In contrast, the Portland Police Bureau has just 12 school resource officers serving six school districts and approximately 75,000 students, according to an email from Lt. James Quackenbush. The resource officers are assigned by cluster, with different high schools acting as their home base.
Reese's on-air comments follow a wave of criticism against Broward County, Fla., Sheriff Scott Israel, who declined to resign after admitting that one of his deputies hid behind a pillar during a school shooting there on Feb. 14.
Both students and teachers were among the 17 victims of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Reese, who is up for re-election himself in May, said the voters in Florida would decide whether to remove Israel from office.