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Skilling to talk with school board about having armed security in buildings

by Trevor Keiser

January 09, 2013

While many are calling for stricter gun control in the aftermath of the Newtown Conn. school shooting, the National Rifle Association (NRA) recommends the best way to stop the next killer is to have armed police officers in every school across America.

"The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun," said NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre at a Dec. 21 Washington Press Conference.

Oxford Community Schools Superintendent Dr. William Skilling said they "had some criticism" a couple years ago when they decided to hire two private un-armed security guards at Oxford High school and one at Oxford Middle School, along with a dean of students as opposed to a uniformed police liaison officer.

"We felt having more people operating as security officers was more important than having one person who was capable of carrying an open weapon," which is still a mutual feeling they have today, he said. "I am going to have a conversation with the (school) board about having our security guards carry an open weapon and see what their feelings are about that. We haven't had that conversation yet, but we plan to do so after Christmas break."

Skilling said all the security guards are retired police officers and would be legally allowed to openly carry a gun.

He also said that he is not in favor of concealed weapons in schools and was happy when Gov. Rick Snyder vetoed legislation that would have allowed such earlier in December.

"Trained police officers (are) quite a bit different in terms of their skills, expertise and knowing when not to use a gun versus somebody who is an amateur who had eight hours of training, which allows them to have a concealed weapon," Skilling said. "I personally would not be in favor of that."

Oakland County Sheriff's Sgt. Scott Patterson, commander of the Oxford Township substation, said the problem with security guards is they have no "police authority."

"They might be ex-police officers, but they're not current police officers so we're back to that conversation that they don't have (the power to make arrests)," he said. "I am sure they're not getting trained continually and currently like we are."

Because the guards don't have arrest authority, Patterson said they've had incidences come up (at the school) where arrests needed to be made and there were problems because the guards don't have the authority to put their hands on people.

"They still have to call like any other citizen and pull a police officer off the street to go do that (arrest)," he said.

While there may not be a liaison officer in the schools, Patterson said the work product related to youth is still there and still needs to be done, which is why they pushed Oxford Township to add an extra deputy and a patrol investigator to the budget.

The patrol investigator will be used to deal with all youth-related incidents and crimes in the township.

The high school still has two private security guards on site. However, the position assigned to the middle school was nixed.

"It wasn't a cost issue," Skilling said. "The middle school principal (Kenneth Weaver) didn't think it was needed as much."

As for current cost to the district for security, Skilling could not say, but he did say when they had four security officers two years ago "it was less money than hiring a full-time liaison officer."

According to the August, 31, 2011 Oxford Leader story ("District beefs up security at OHS, OMS") the district budgeted $100,000 for security at both OHS and OMS for the 2011-2012 fiscal year.

The story also stated the guards were to be paid $15 per hour and receive five paid vacation days. A school liaison officer from the sheriff's department comes at a contract price of $126,594, which includes wages, benefits, and a vehicle.

In a perfect world, Patterson said he would like to see an armed police officer in every school, but given the economics involved, he would settle for even one school liaison officer.

"It's a standard. Just about every school system in the area has a school liaison officer (and) we used to have one here (prior to 2003)," he added. "I understand times get tough and you have to pull back. I just don't understand if things got better where Oxford Schools could afford security why weren't we approached for a school liaison to go back up there?"