New Broward County Sheriff Is Seeking 'Definitive' Ways To Address School Safety

Mar 4, 2019

Broward County Sheriff Gregory Tony has promised to improve school safety in the district following last year's shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Tony was chosen to replace Scott Israel in January after Israel was suspended by Governor Ron DeSantis for his response to the shooting. Formerly a Coral Springs police sergeant, Tony says he has a lot of work to do to rebuild trust between his department and the community. He's promised to review current Broward Sheriff Office policies and increase trainings and resources for the agency's deputies. 

On Sundial, Tony talked about the controversial Guardian program, which allows trained school staff to carry firearms, his priorities coming into the position—especially those pertaining to school safety—and his plans to run for the office in 2020.

WLRN: What's your take on the Guardian Program -- the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School law that allows for school staff to be armed?

TONY: Teachers don't want to be police officers anymore than police officers want to be teachers. And so the implementation of the Guardian program is to introduce the opportunity to arm personnel and train personnel that are qualified whether they go through the standard curriculum elements that are currently available or if they have other types of credentials behind it. It's my position that if we're going to put out a comprehensive policy or a bill that requires more armed personnel, I would prefer them to be law enforcement personnel.

I can tell you from the SWAT experience I have, shooting in a crowd is a very dynamic thing that requires years of training -- understand your backdrop, understanding a lot of different dynamics. I would hesitate to jump behind and say 'let's go do this and arm teachers.' We need to ensure we put together a comprehensive training program that provides opportunities for retired law enforcement, veterans that exist out there who want this job and will excel at that job.

Sheriff Bob Gualtieri of Pinellas County leads that commission and has said if staff had been armed that maybe they would have stopped the shooter earlier and saved more lives.

That is not a definitive thing. I can't work on anything that's not definitive. 

Sheriff Tony, there's a new agreement in place that allows for the sheriff's office to access live security feed from inside Broward County Schools. What are the circumstances in which that access is allowed?

We sat down with the (Broward Schools) superintendent Mr. Runcie. He understands what my law enforcement concerns are and as of now he has agreed to the terms that I need to have in place so that we not only have access to the cameras but we have access to the camera systems that are functioning at their full capacity.

What can you tell parents right now if they have any concerns about privacy?

The privacy elements there are not intrusive in nature. This is about emergency situations such as an active shooter event or any emergency situation where people's lives are in peril. I have no interest nor do my deputies have any interest in watching students do math problems or walk through hallways. That is not what our function is.