“The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”
–Saint Bernard of Clairvaux c. 1150
I’m the first to admit – I have my limitations.
For instance, I have absolutely no mechanical skill, and am forever at the mercy of tradesmen – guys with trucks and toolbelts and the manual dexterity to build things, do plumbing repairs, patch a leaky roof and change lightbulbs.
They name the price – I pay it. What the hell else am I going to do?
Like my father before me, I don’t know which end of a hammer you blow in.
Suffice it to say, the Barker genome lacks the “handy” chromosome – and I come from a long lineage of men who never owned a power tool beyond a cocktail blender – and wouldn’t know what to do with one if we did.
While looking for a screwdriver to tighten that thing in the back of the toilet that makes the water sputter and spurt all night (you know that thing?) I recently discovered a small red toolbox in my garage. It contained a Tupperware lid and a set of ice tongs – so I used a dull corkscrew I had on hand to adjust the screw.
I have always admired friends who possess the ability to troubleshoot engine problems, do a “brake job” or adjust the spark plugs in their car.
While I have a passing idea of how to change a tire, the last time I tried, I discovered that a spare tire was an option I didn’t opt for when I bought the car. Regardless, I couldn’t have figured out how to put the jack together if I had one (have you seen one lately? It’s like a three-dimensional folding jigsaw puzzle. . .)
So, I called the dealership and they quickly came to my rescue.
Sports? Forget about it.
Oh, I tried out, but simply never had the strength and coordination required to play organized athletics – where the outcome of the game always hinged on the weakest link – which was usually me. . .
In her infinite kindness, my mom would invariably offer reassurance when I couldn’t hit a baseball very far, “You’re good at other things.”
She was right.
I have two highly developed skill sets – honed by decades of advanced training, practical experience and hard lessons learned – and one is the ability to protect and serve others as a law enforcement professional.
The other is a preternatural ability to smell political bullshit like a bloodhound with sonar.
Following the tragedy at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School, politicians at all levels of government came under incredible pressure to do something – anything – to secure our schools and protect the precious lives of children, teachers and staff who, for reasons known only to madmen, have increasingly become the targets of psychopathic misfits bent on the destruction of all we hold dear.
In turn, with little thought and absolutely no idea how to pay for it, our state legislators did what they do best – they had a kneejerk reaction to a serious problem, handed down yet another unfunded mandate to local government, then went home.
In this case, our lawmakers ordered financially strapped local school districts to hire, train and place a sworn law enforcement officer or armed civilian “School Guardian” in every school in the state – and they must do it by the start of the 2018-19 school year which begins next month.
On May 18th, Sheriff Mike Chitwood sent a “call to service” to recently retired law enforcement officers seeking volunteers for the guardian program – or to serve as sworn School Resource Deputies.
“Many of you have committed a lifetime of service to your community. We realize asking you to return to public service now may not be what you had in mind when you retired. But we also believe there are those of you who will feel drawn to answer the call.”
That afternoon, I was among the very first to submit my resume for consideration.
I would have thought less of myself if I had not stood up and said, “send me.”
I had the opportunity to develop a unique set of skills during 31-years in the police service – skills that were paid for by the gracious community I served.
Rather than let that training go to waste, I have maintained active law enforcement certification through the Florida Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission – and have successfully completed in-service training and regular firearms qualifications since my retirement in 2014.
I may not know how to hammer a nail – but I have qualified at the expert level with small arms since my earliest days in U.S. Army basic training – and later while developing CQB skills during Military Police School at Ft. McClellan, Alabama – and at nearly 58 years old, I shoot in the top percentile of my agency.
I can still field strip and reassemble an M16A2 rifle and Remington 870. Blindfolded.
In 1996, I was invited to attend the prestigious FBI National Academy at Quantico, Virginia, where I graduated alongside the top one-half of one-percent of law enforcement professionals in the world.
In the aftermath of 9/11, I received advanced training and was cleared to receive sensitive criminal intelligence and threat assessments – information that I used to conduct vulnerability studies and make physical security recommendations for critical public infrastructure.
I have authored accredited policies for high liability issues, such as use of force, defensive tactics and active shooter response – then enforced those policies in practice – and I chaired the Volusia/Flagler Police Chief’s Associations Standardized Emergency Management Protocol Committee for multi-jurisdictional incident command.
I have responded to every Florida Disaster to impact east Central Florida since 1983 – and was selected to lead a team of law enforcement officers to Dade County in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Andrew in 1992, where I helped supervised nighttime law enforcement operations in the challenged Liberty City area of northwest Miami.
In addition, I was cross designated a United States Customs Officer with the Blue Lightning Strike Force – and have personally conducted or commanded hundreds of covert narcotics and vice suppression operations.
I was a member of the State Attorney’s Office Special Investigations Unit under State Attorney Steven Alexander, and assigned to John Tanner’s Homicide Investigations Unit – and I am a graduate of the FEMA National Emergency Management Training Center’s professional development series – and later certified as a Professional Emergency Manager by the Florida Emergency Preparedness Association.
As Chief of Police, I developed my agency’s highly successful Honor Code, Pride in Public Service and Operation Lifeline programs focusing on values-oriented public service.
I have also received advanced training from former U.S. Army Lt. Col. Dave Grossman – perhaps the foremost authority on the psychology and tactics of active shooter response in the world.
Most important to the matter at hand – I can tell you what it feels like to be shot at – what it smells and sounds like when someone fires a weapon and tries to kill you and others – and I can describe in detail what it takes to keep your composure when literally everyone around you is losing their mind.
Suffice it to say – I’m a lot of things, and I’m not a lot of things – but I’ve been around the block.
I thought – naively perhaps – that my hard-earned credentials and experience would be a good addition to the credibility of the Guardian program.
After two very pleasant telephone calls with a representative from the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office to confirm my qualifications, I was directed to complete an on-line application with the Volusia County School District, and, in early June, I received electronic confirmation that my application for the School Guardian Program had been accepted.
Then, I set about shining my shoes, getting a haircut and collecting my best suit from the dry cleaner as I anxiously awaited an interview that never materialized.
Days turned into weeks.
I followed reports in The Daytona Beach News-Journal which said nearly 200 people had applied for the program – and that those being considered were actively being vetted through a rigorous background process to determine suitability prior to beginning a 132-hour training program.
It slowly became apparent that I didn’t make the cut.
I didn’t measure up.
At least I hope I didn’t.
Because I would hate to think I was passed over for a job where my qualifications could help protect precious children because someone doesn’t like the fact I exercise my First Amendment right to criticize and question the machinations of my government. . .
Now, my other unique talent has kicked in – the one that allows me to sniff out the foul stench of political bullshit from a mile away – and ask the difficult questions bureaucrats would rather not answer, you know, like the petty asshole I am.
Look, I’m not going to sit here and tell you that I didn’t know in my heart-of-hearts that Barker’s View – perhaps the most caustically accurate chronicle of the base ineptitude and abject corruption in Volusia County government to ever hit the web – was not going to be a consideration.
You see, most government entities support the First Amendment – right up until the very moment you exercise it.
Then, apparently, you become unemployable.
If nothing else, they missed a bold opportunity to silence their most vociferous critic.
I intimated to trusted friends that if hired by Volusia County, I was fully prepared to shut down this opinion blog as it would not be ethical to accept public funds to perform a job in the public interest – then openly criticize the government that employed me.
I’m old-fashioned that way.
Now – I’ve got all day to dig for the truth. . .
In my view, the one thing the “School Guardian” program desperately requires for success is the public’s trust – and both internal and external buy-in from those it exists to serve.
In short – it needs that credibility I mentioned.
Putting armed civilians in elementary schools is like walking on the planet Mars – it’s never been done before – and repeatedly hearing senior county officials say, “It’ll do until something better comes along” is, in my view, self-defeating and infinitely disparaging to those brave souls who answered the call.
The public’s faith and trust in the program will begin and end with it’s leadership and supervision.
To that end, on July 2nd I made a formal public records request asking for the job description and posting for the important role of School Security Specialist – a position each district is required by statute to designate.
I also asked for this individual’s resume listing his/her qualifications for this vitally important role.
After all, given the nature of the work, the morale and respect of the brave men and women who serve as guardians will depend to a great extent upon their personal confidence in those who have been appointed to lead them into harms way.
Oh, and I have asked for the salary range – you know, a cursory accounting of what you and I are paying for this “school security expert” who will ultimately be charged with the gravely important task of physically protecting our children and teachers.
As of today, I’m on my third public records request – and while I have become something of a weird Pen Pal with the school district’s Chief Operating Officer, Greg Akin – I still don’t have a clue about the qualifications and experience of those tasked with leading, supervising, inspecting and directing our School Guardians – and something tells me the district doesn’t either. . .
I’ve been told the reason for the delay is everything from the Forth of July Holiday – to multiple vacations by staff members – but in truth, I’m beginning to feel, well, put off. . .
From secret deals with Florida Hospital to controversial school mergers and non-productive negotiations with the teacher’s union and the lack of solid information on proposed school half-days, what is it with any arm of Volusia County government and transparency?
It’s like an information black hole in DeLand – but why?
Like an old friend of mine said when he heard I was passed over for a Guardian position, “I hope it’s due to incompetence and not malice.”
Interestingly, the job posting for the School Guardian Program was re-opened by Volusia County Schools at 3:00pm yesterday. . .
Stay tuned, kids. When I find out – you’ll find out.
To be continued. . .