SAINT PAUL, Minn. - The National Rifle Association ended its silence on the shooting disaster in Newtown, Connecticut on Friday.
"I call on Congress today to act immediately to appropriate whatever is necessary to put armed police officers in every single school in this nation," said Wayne LaPierre, Vice President of the NRA.
Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek finds the proposal redundant in his county. "I would say that right here in Hennepin County we already have an armed police officer in every school. We have the school resource or school liaison officer program. All of our schools, 200 plus across Hennepin County, elementary and high school have a local law enforcement officer or sheriff's deputy assigned to them," said Stanek.
Stanek said that often one officer is assigned to two or three schools. Thus, the liaison officer is not necessarily in every school all through the school day.
"I think that is a concept worth exploring," said Gary Amoroso, Ph.D, Executive Director of the Minnesota Association of School Administrators. "My experiences have been positive with liaison officers, but I would not want to say that all the eggs would be put into one basket, saying that if we had an officer in every building, that is the end of the conversation."
In Hennepin County, the cost of liaison officers in schools is borne jointly by the school districts and the police agencies. The cost of a national program, as the NRA favors, would cost upwards of $5 billion, according to theMoneyBox blog on Slate.com. The blog did not take into account the cost of benefits for the officers, which would add substantially to the total.
One proposal to hold down the expense is to use armed "volunteers" in the schools. Stanek did not commit to approving or disapproving of the concept. "Armed volunteers?" said Stanek. "If they are trained, if they have a permit to carry, I guess we are open to different considerations."
Amoroso was adamant in opposition to that concept. "I would be more concerned if you were talking about a quote, unquote, volunteer because no training, even if they had the training, the training was in the past," said Amoroso. "That would be an entirely different conversation that I would have much less comfort with and, quite frankly, would not want to see that unless it is a trained, active-duty officer which we have seen to be successful in a lot of our secondary schools in the state and around the country."
Sheriff Stanek had just returned from Washington, D.C. "I was very privileged to have a seat at the table with the Vice President and the Attorney General of the United States and several of the cabinet members." Stanek was invited to add his input to Vice President Joe Biden's committee delegated by President Obama to report back by January.
"The Vice President was very ernest. He asked our advice and guidance from our local law enforcement and so, myself,and several other chiefs had an opportunity to do that, give them kind of a real world perspective on what we are seeing and what is happening," said Stanek.
Sheriff Stanek indicated that he expects to return to Washington, D.C. in the next week or so to continue offering his expertise to the Biden Committee.