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First Sheriff’s Sentinel Program in Florida

Southeastern University and the Polk County Sheriff’s Office Partner for Sentinel Program

Southeastern University and the Polk County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) are partnering together for the first Sentinel Program in the state of Florida, in order to enhance safety for students, faculty, staff and guests of the campus. This one-of-a-kind program enables authorized and properly trained employees of the university to carry concealed firearms on campus for the purpose of rapidly responding to an active assailant on campus. Otherwise, in the state of Florida it is illegal to conceal or open carry on college campuses.

“The safety of our students, faculty, and staff is a paramount concern for us at Southeastern University,” said Kent Ingle, president of Southeastern. “We are excited about this new program that will result in well-trained staff being available on campus to rapidly respond to any active assailant threat. We are committed to providing the safest learning environment possible for our university community.”

Sheriff Grady Judd and SEU President Dr. Kent Ingle sign Sentinel Program documents

A signing of documents between Ingle and Sheriff Grady Judd took place on December 16 in the new Buena Vida building on Southeastern’s campus. The partnership came about after a conversation that Ingle and Judd had one year ago about the safety and security of the university.

“In addition to all the training, threat assessments, individual intervention, and technology we have invested into our security programs, we know one more critical thing we can do to reduce the number of lives impacted in an active assailant incident is a shorter response time for the good guys to interrupt and stop the bad guy,” said Judd.

According to the United States Department of Justice, it only takes two to five minutes for an attack to be carried out in great length. The intention of the Sentinel Program is to combat attacks by shortening the time of the attack with first respondents.

The Office of the President selected employees who volunteered for the program, and were later screened by the PCSO staff, including criminal background checks, drug testing, and a psychological evaluation. The training for the participants will begin in January of 2017, and the program will be implemented in the summer of 2017.

The participants will be given 100 hours of comprehensive firearm safety and proficiency training for the purpose of providing security on campus during an active assailant incident. The 100-hour block of firearms instruction is 25 percent more instruction than the standard that is required for certified law enforcement officers. In addition to the 100 hours, the Sentinels will also be required to complete 32 hours of deadly force training.

The participants will be appointed by the Sheriff as volunteer “Special Deputies.” The Special Deputies will have no authority to act in any law enforcement capacity outside of an active assailant incident on campus.

The firearms and holsters will be approved by the PCSO. The Southeastern University director of safety and security will retain the names of the participants, documentation of the weapon and equipment inspections, as well as the participants’ training certification, inspection and qualification records.

“The Sentinel Program further enhances the safety and security of our campus,” said Ingle, who took steps in 2014 to increase security on campus by creating a partnership with the PCSO to provide law enforcement security management for the university.

Under the partnership, the campus director of safety and security is a sworn law enforcement officer and dual reports to the university and the PCSO. The position is currently held by Bart Davis.

“I am excited to be a part of this new innovative approach to enhancing safety on Southeastern University’s campus,” said Davis. “The Sentinel program will provide another layer of protection for the campus community in the event of an active assailant by reducing the amount of time before an assailant is confronted. During these scenarios, is absolutely critical to intervene as rapidly as possible.”

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By the numbers

According to a United States Department of Justice study, between the years of 2000 and 2013 there were 160 “active shooter” incidents in the U.S. “Active shooter” is defined as: “An individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area with a firearm.”

Key takeaways of this study include:

There were 6.4 incidents per year on average between 2000 and 2006.

There were 16.4 incidents per year on average between 2007 and 2013.

70% of the 160 incidents occurred in either a commerce/business or educational setting.

107 of these incidents ended BEFORE police arrived to engage the shooter. In 25 of the 160 incidents, the shooter(s) fled the scene before law enforcement arrived.

64 of the 160 incidents (where an accurate timeline could be established) were over in 5 minutes or less.

Incidents at educational facilities account for some of the higher incident casualty counts, to include Virginia Tech (32 killed, 17 wounded) and Sandy Hook Elementary School (26 killed, 2 wounded).

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