They include a veteran art teacher who decided to protect classrooms, a former undercover narcotics detective who came out of retirement, and an early-career cop who wanted to help after the shooting that left 17 dead at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Miami-Dade County Public Schools Police Department swore in seven new school resource officers on Tuesday, the first class of new cops welcomed to the force since the February massacre in nearby Broward County. The additional officers will help meet the new state requirement that a cop or armed guard be stationed on every campus when school starts again in August.
During the swearing-in ceremony on Tuesday, Superintendent Alberto Carvalho again pledged that the district would comply with the law without putting guns in the hands of anybody who’s not a trained law enforcement officer.
“No one is better equipped, better trained — there are no better professionals to ensure the protection and the safety of our children and the protection of those who teach them than certified professional law enforcement,” Carvalho said. “At no point shall we substitute that presence for anything less than men and women in uniform.”
Carvalho was drawing a contrast between how Miami-Dade County and Broward County intend to ramp up security going into next school year. After initially voting not to arm school staff, the Broward school board last week began hiring non-police security guards who will be trained and armed. (They’ll be required to have at least two years experience in law enforcement or the military.)
Broward school district leaders have said the move is necessary to comply with the law. The district doesn’t have the money to hire enough officers and even if it did, there’s a shortage of available law enforcement in South Florida. Miami-Dade plans to overcome the same challenges by partnering — and sharing the costs — with local police agencies.
The Miami-Dade district is also asking retired police officers to come back to work. Manny Alvarez, 50, and William Carter, 46, both retired from the City of Hialeah police department. They were sworn in Tuesday. Ariel Nuñez, 27, left that department to work for the school district instead, citing the shooting as his motivation.
Officer Freddie Rosa, 49, is a former Marine and has been a teacher since 2001, starting in Puerto Rico. He came to Miami-Dade several years later and has taught visual art at Avocado Elementary School in Homestead for the past two years. After the shooting, he decided to change careers.
“After those unfortunate events that happened … I really felt the call in my heart to do more, to protect the children beyond the classroom setting,” said Rosa, who has three children of his own.
Also at the ceremony, Sofia Shakir, 42, was promoted to sergeant — and she’s the force’s first Pakistani woman in the role. A single mother of two, Shakir speaks seven languages and decided to become a school resource officer initially because she wanted to build bridges between Muslim students and their peers.
She said the promotion raises the stakes.
“Before as an officer, I was just worried about myself,” she said. “But now as a sergeant, I have 10 people I have to make sure get home to their families.”
Miami Herald reporter Colleen Wright contributed to this story.