Christie: Palm Beach County school security rewrites will placate parents, but won’t stop shootings

A Palm Beach County School District resource officer opens the gates to the Palm Beach Central High School parking lot so owners can retrieve their cars after the shooting Friday night, during the football game between Palm Beach Central and Dwyer high schools. (Joseph Forzano / The Palm Beach Post)

The Palm Beach County School Board agreed last week to spend up to $372,000 for a political consultant to advertise about the proposed property tax hike on radio, TV and online.

At the risk of sounding cynical, they might have just saved the taxpayer’s money given Friday night’s tragic events. Although the logical argument for the new tax revenue highlight a long-overdue boost in pay of public school teachers, the emotional part of the argument is fueled by the school safety issue.

And over the last few days that emotion has been dialed up to a level we all hoped it never would.

RELATED: Woman: I witnessed shooting at football game in Wellington, ‘couldn’t believe it’

You see, there’s school security, and then there’s school security.

That has become readily apparent in the wake of Friday night’s shooting at a football game between Palm Beach Central and William T. Dwyer high schools in that otherwise safe suburban enclave of Wellington.

The shooting wasn’t technically on campus; but I’m not sure it really matters at this point.

Much like the attendees at that football game, school officials and politicians are running scared of anything that raises doubts in the minds of parents’ and students’ that they can protect kids on a school campus.

Galvano

Even before the shooting last week, incoming Senate President Bill Galvano said he wants state lawmakers to think about expanding the school-safety efforts approved during the 2018 legislative session after the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

In a series of tweets last Tuesday, the Bradenton Republican implored senators to look more at school safety, according to the News Service of Florida.

“As incoming Senate President of the third-largest state in the nation — a bellwether for others — I am committed to making sure our re-examination of school safety policies does not end here,” Galvano tweeted. “Some issues simply must transcend politics. The safety of our children is one.”

In the 2018 session, lawmakers approved a wide-ranging, $400 million measure (SB 7026) measure that includes requiring schools to have safety officers, bolstering mental-health services and upgrading protections through school campus “hardening” projects.

And that’s kind of the rub here isn’t it? Friday’s shooting, which left two people injured — at least one critically — was barely on the school campus. In fact, Palm Beach County School District Police Chief Frank Kitzerow said it was an act of community violence that “barely spilled” on to the school campus. The shooting happened just outside the seating area — about 50 yards from a main road and outside the “secure” area of the stadium.

Most important, Kitzerow added, “Your children are safe. Come to school on Monday. We will be there.”

On Satuday, Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw (R) and Palm Beach School Police Chief Frank Kitzerow (L), brief the media on the shooting that took place at Palm Beach Central High School. (Joseph Forzano / The Palm Beach Post)

They were indeed. A couple of extra sheriff’s deputies were stationed outside Palm Beach Central High Monday morning. But more importantly, school district and sheriff’s officials are rewriting the security playbook this week to among other things, incorporate the area outside of a football stadium.

To be sure, it sounds like a knee-jerk over-reaction. But they don’t have much choice. The school board can either make adjustments so that parents and students feel better, or get hammered by those same parents and students for their lack of compassion.

As the Post’s Sonja Isger reported, those adjustments include morning kickoffs for some of the biggest games of the season and an hour earlier starts at 6 p.m. rather than 7 p.m. for others.

Once fans get to the game, only clear bags — and searched diaper bags — will make it through the gates.

And going forward, security staffing plans for football games and other large events will be devised by school police and paid for out of district accounts rather than pinning those obligations on each school. A group of principals will be putting together a list of protocols to be standard at events countywide.

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But how much is really enough? Especially when you’ve got teachers rethinking whether they support being armed and parents refusing to send their kids to any more football games.

A week ago, if you had mentioned doing either of those things to most Palm Beach County residents, the majority would have looked at you like you’re nuts.

Not today.

Do you think school district officials are going too far changing when games are played?… Vote in our poll and leave a comment here.

Sniper fire in Dallas leaves 5 police officers dead, darkens our democracy

 

 

A police officer looks up while standing behind a vehicle, as police responded to shots being fired during a protest over recent fatal shootings by police in Louisiana and Minnesota, Thursday, July 7, 2016, in Dallas. Snipers opened fire on police officers during protests; several officers were killed, police said. (Maria R. Olivas/The Dallas Morning News via AP)
A police officer looks up while standing behind a vehicle, as police responded to shots being fired during a protest over recent fatal shootings by police in Louisiana and Minnesota, Thursday, July 7, 2016, in Dallas. (Maria R. Olivas/The Dallas Morning News via AP)

At the very least, the terrible events of the last few days tell us that there is way too much violence in America.

On this grim morning, we are reeling at the deaths of five Dallas police officers and the wounding of seven more, targeted simply for doing their jobs: protecting the peace. In this case, protecting the protest of some 800 people gathered in fury and grief over the killing of black men in Louisiana and Minnesota at the hands of police, a scenario that seems never to end and that tells us that something is deeply wrong in our country.

It was a peaceful protest. Just like the protests that arose yesterday in Baton Rouge, St. Paul, Chicago, New York and a hundred other places. It was peaceful until an unknown number of snipers with rapid-fire rifles, all too easily obtained in this land of the free, opened fire.

Those snipers — one of whom was killed by police, but not before saying that he was “upset over Black Lives Matter,” “upset about the recent police shootings” and that he “wanted to kill white people, especially white officers,” according to the Dallas police chief — attacked not just a police department that was taking strides to improve its relations with its community, they attacked our democracy.

They completely undermined and destroyed the message of those protesters. They injured two of them, reports indicate.

They attacked all of us who hoped that the nation could work toward improving the fraught relations between our police forces and black America in a thoughtful way. Now any dialogue becomes infinitely harder. So does any soul-searching.

President Obama, whose ascension to office was widely misunderstood to mean that we had arrived at a so-called end to racial issues in America, rightly called the Dallas ambush a “vicious, calculated and despicable attack on law enforcement.” And though the reasons for these police murders can be understood, there can be “no possible justification” for them.

An eye for an eye, as a wise man said, leaves everyone blind.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Letter: PBSO’s ‘(Sheriff Ric Bradshaw) has to go, and go now’

Sheriff Ric Bradshaw in February 2015.(Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)
Sheriff Ric Bradshaw in February 2015.(Lannis Waters / The Palm Beach Post)

Seth Adams was murdered on his own property by an undercover deputy four years ago (“PBSO agrees to pay $15,000 for not providing data in Seth Adams case,” May 19). This was tragic. The withholding and destruction of evidence is nothing new under Sheriff Ric Bradshaw. I feel for the Adams family and the Corey Jones family and the many other families whose lives have been so damaged because of questionable deputy shootings.

I am a retired Palm Beach County firefighter/medic, and I have worked with many great deputies. But, seeing how Bradshaw runs the show disgusts me. He has to go, and go now.

JOE AVERSANO, WELLINGTON

Readers React: Bradshaw bucking the county on pot ordinance

Drugs at SunFest in West Palm Beach, Fl on April 28, 2016. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)
A concerntgoer at SunFest smkoing marijuana. (Allen Eyestone / The Palm Beach Post)

PBSO Sheriff Ric Bradshaw told The Post’s Editorial Board he’s told his officers to follow Florida state law that still makes marijuana possession a misdemeanor criminal offense instead of following a December Palm Beach County ordinance that makes it a civil offense, and Post readers have reacted on social media.

But first, what’s the difference between an ordinance and a law?

An ordinance is a statute passed by a local municipality that covers things like sidewalk vending, parking zones, building regulations and even public nuisance violations. Typically, these ordinances only cover misdemeanors when it comes to criminal law. In this case, Palm Beach County’s commissioners decided in a 4-1 vote to make possessing a small amount of marijuana — 20 grams or less — a civil nuisance, allowing police officers to issue a ticket for small amount possession. This means someone caught with or using a small amount marijuana could be fined either $100 or complete 10 hours community service. Either way, the offense isn’t criminal and wouldn’t lead to jail time or a criminal record.

Bradshaw is opting to follow state law, however, which still makes marijuana possession a criminal offense, even for a small amount like 20 grams. At that amount or less, it becomes a misdemeanor criminal offense, punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. And it will appear on your criminal record. This law has been passed by the state legislature and is enforceable anywhere in the state.

So why is Bradshaw opting for the harsher path? He says the reason is two-fold: it “gets people off drugs,” and allows officers to search suspects who are caught with marijuana, which the civil ordinance wouldn’t allow.

Bradshaw has the prerogative to follow whichever path he chooses; he isn’t required under state law to abide by county ordinances and can instead opt to follow state law, as he is doing here.

Bradshaw says for first-time offenders in possession of a small amount of marijuana, his officers will issue a Notice to Appear, and pre-trial intervention will typically allow the person to choose either drug counseling or community service. But that’s only for first-time offenders only Get caught again by a sheriff’s deputy and you’re no longer a first-time offender with those options.

Readers reacted on Facebook overwhelmingly opposed to Bradshaw’s directives:

Tell us what you think. Take the poll and jump in on the conversation on Facebook or below.

Letter: Good to see PBSO held accountable in Dontrell Stephens case

Greenacres has slowly started merging its 51-member police force with The Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office.

It’s about time the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office was held accountable for one of their deputy’s actions (“Jury faults deputy, PBSO, awards $23.1M”; Feb. 4). Fortunately, the jury saw through the tricks — put on the stand by the attorneys for the sheriff, to no avail.

Sgt. Adams Lin allegedly saw Dontrell Stephens commit a minor traffic violation. As an avid bike rider, I know Lin needs to understand the law. As a bike rider, I have the right to be in the road and ride my bike.

When possible, the rider should be over to the right as far as possible. Depending upon the road, that could cause traffic to go around them, which is required by the law. The bike rider has as much right to be there as the cars.

According to reported testimony, Lin testified he thought the rider was going to drop the bike and run. So what? Let them run; the deputy can confiscate the bike. How sad that ego and power may have cost a man his legs and the life he had.

You see the same thing in the courts, with judges thinking they can do what they want and get away with it — ego and power. Whatever happened to wanting to help people?

ED WORTH, BOYNTON BEACH