by Bella Baugh
Recently government leaders and the general public have been talking about arming teachers as a way to protect students after the Parkland, Florida, shooting.
The Eagle’s Cry asked Pella Police Chief Robert Bokinsky to share his perspective on arming teachers. He spoke as the Chief of the Pella PD on behalf of the Pella PD and emphasized that his views on the topic do not represent the feelings or positions held by any other organization or collective representing law enforcement executives. “I am sure there is diversity of opinion based upon regional bias or common practices,” Bokinsky said. “However, based upon my training and experience, my position is the most reasonable position.”
Bokinsky feels that PC’s current condition is not prepared for arming teachers. “Anyone who desires to step up and assume the role as armed protector needs to have far more than just a firearm,” he said. Conceptually he is fine with the whole idea, but before it can be responsibly and safely implemented he feels the following decisions need to be made:
1. What firearm will be carried? Everything should be considered from type (shotgun, rifle, pistol, revolver, etc.), to caliber, to type of ammunition, to manufacturer of the firearm? The school should then ask themselves – Do we have the requisite knowledge and understanding of firearms and wound ballistics to make these decisions?
2. Who will own the firearms – school or individuals?
3. How many staff will carry the firearm(s)? Who will they be?
4. Where will the firearms be stored/carried?
5. What training will those carrying firearms have with respect to weapons handling and marksmanship? Police officers must annually demonstrate that they meet the state’s proficiency standards, or they will cease to become or remain as police officers. Further, the Pella PD’s officers train on the firearms range several times each year. Most also shoot on their own to maintain proficiency. Our training consists of basic marksmanship, to qualifications with every weapons system, to tactical training. Is staff willing to commit to this level and standard of training?
6. Training in marksmanship and tactics is one thing; developing a satisfactory measure of judgment under pressure is an entirely different matter. How will staff members train for this?
7. Is the staff prepared to partake in an ongoing program of simulation training? This is training where not only are they shooting, but they are engaging targets that are moving and shooting back. These suspect targets are often surrounded by hostages and non-hostiles who cannot be shot by the police or faculty who are sworn to protect them.
8. Will the staff be prepared to psychologically deal with the aftermath of an event? I am specifically speaking of the consuming guilt from occasions such as failing to stop an active shooter because of poor marksmanship, or lacking the courage at that crucial moment to fire the weapon, or even hesitating ever so slightly. Or worse yet, accidentally shooting and killing an innocent. Are they prepared to reconcile the taking of a life with Exodus 20:13 – Thou shalt not kill (even though it should read murder)? Pella police officers are psychologically screened for these very points.
9. Will there be a response plan in place so that the students know what to do to summons an armed faculty member? What to do when he or she shows up? What will be the plan for when the police show up… specifically, not getting themselves killed by the emergency responders?
“I can continue with the decisions that need to be made prior to arming faculty members, but the point is made,” said Bokinsky. “If a school wants an armed presence on campus, and wants to do it safely, responsibly and effectively, the best thing to do may just be to leave it to those who train for armed conflict. The hiring or contracting of a school resource officer or the hiring of competent armed security may be the easier path.”
Bokisnky repeated that when these events occur the assailants are almost always known to the student body. “Being proactive, speaking up and preventing incidents is always the best and safest course of action,” he said.