The House Committees on Defense and Veterans’ Affairs and Homeland Security and Public Safety met to examine the experience of other states in prioritizing retired peace officers and military veterans for school security.
This report is intended to give you an overview and highlight of the discussions on the various topics the committee took up. This report is not a verbatim transcript of the hearing; it is based upon what was audible or understandable to the observer and the desire to get details out as quickly as possible with few errors or omissions.
Opening Comments: King-Once we work through the interim charge, the Committee on Homeland Security and Public Safety will meet separately.
Shannon Edmonds, Texas District and County Attorney’s Association
- Discusses current gun laws
- It is illegal to carry a firearm at a public/private school
- Active duty police officers, certain honorably discharged peace officers, and active duty military who are on duty can carry guns on campus
- There is no law allowing veterans to carry on campus
- Gun laws only apply to the premise of the building, not parking lots, sidewalks, etc.
- Flynn- Did you say former county judges are ok to carry if they have a license?
- A judicial officer, not a retired judge
- Flynn- Which are defenses to prosecution?
- All of the above are
- Flynn- If it is an exception to the offense, the police are not going to arrest anybody
- Lambert- So, school functions on a non-school premise, that would still apply?
- It may depend on what school function it is
- It is a gray area in the law
- Officers are good about using discretion in those cases
- Joy Baskin, TASB- If the school district is occupying the location, it would be a school related activity and the law would apply, but if they do not have control over the location it would not apply
- Lambert- How would the public apply that?
- They wouldn’t know unless they knew the law
Joy Baskin, Texas Association of School Boards, TASB
- Emphasizes the need for local control
- Discusses individuals who are armed in a school setting
- Gives the committee a document about the current options for guns in schools
- Resource officers are employed by the city or county, so they are basically on loan
- The school district can commission a peace officer
- Security officer jurisdiction is set by the local district and must be commissioned to carry a firearm if they are
- Asks the question, “Can districts hire a security company and allow individuals from the company to carry a firearm?”
- King- Where do the school marshals fit into this?
- The school can use somebody who has a job in the district already
- Known as the School Marshal Plan or the Guardian Plan
- Districts use a board policy to grant authority to the superintendent who then gives to names of people who should carry the firearm to the board
- Actively happening in 217 school districts
- Nevárez- Can you tell us why 244 schools have opted for the SRO instead of the marshal program?
- I think school districts want to take advantage of the SRO
- It is possible that the program is in broader use because some districts keep the marshal private
- School marshal law has a storage requirement; if they have direct contact with children it must be hidden but in an arm’s length
- Nevárez – So a teacher could keep it locked in a desk somewhere in reach?
- Gutierrez-So, there are no programs for a veteran to become a marshal?
- Gutierrez- There is no program that is going to allow veterans to volunteer? I have had veterans call my office and volunteer.
- Correct; school districts are supportive of having that option though
- Hinojosa- Saw alarming missteps with resource officers due to lack of training.
- I would defer to the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement and DPS to see how they train
- Hinojosa- Where would I find data on incidents involving firearms at school?
- Through PEIMS managed by TEA
- Hinojosa- The PEIMS data is more comprehensive?
- Cain- Do you believe our sovereign immunity laws are strong enough?
- Individual insurance companies make their own choices about what they put in the policies
- TASB has a fund that will not change rates or reduce coverage for districts engaged in choosing options
- Flynn- Is the type of gun addressed in the penal code?
- Edmonds-The penal code does not distinguish between hand guns and shotguns
- Edmonds-Only makes it illegal if it is on the school premises
- Jarvis- In respect to guardians, is there a reason why/how we qualify who the guardian will be?
- It is left to local decision making
- Jarvis- How are they are insured?
- Local districts have their own insurance coverage through different companies
- Jarvis- Why wouldn’t the guardians fall under the same insurance as the police?
- The statute does not address that at all
Kim Vickers, Texas Commission on Law Enforcement
- Details specific information regarding veterans and peace officers on campus
- One must have an active license and be appointed by a law enforcement agency in order to be a commissioned peace officer
- As long as they keep up their training, the authority lasts
- If they have worked for more than 15 years it is easier for that person to become a commissioned peace officer
- Reserve officers in Texas have a pay status
- The only people who can work off-duty are full-time officers
- Describes how veterans can transition to peace officers
- Military police have the most comparable post and are expedited in the process to become a peace officer
- Other veterans are required to go through standard military requirements and exempt veterans from examination fees
- Gutierrez- With regard to veterans, we do not charge them for training or fees?
- Regarding the stuff we have control over, we do not charge
- But if they have to go through specialized training or an academy that is up to the training entity
Tim Shatto, Texas Veterans Commission
- Describes training regarding veterans
- Go through regular handling of weaponry and force training
- Still have the same requirements regardless as military occupation
- There a lot of soft skills and interpersonal training to go through
- Gutierrez- Will we be able to see that the person went through the situational training or is it just a gun training class?
- Yes, much of the training can be done in the pre-deployment training
- Gutierrez- Do you know of other states that are using veterans as school marshals?
- None of the states I have talked to are using it
- Many states are looking to us to see what we are doing
- Blanco- Did they indicate why they are not use veterans?
- No, I think there is a great interest in pursuing that avenue
- Don’t think any states have made actions yet
- Blanco- How many MOSs are best suited for school security rolls?
- Military police, security forces, range coaches, etc.
- Blanco- How many MOSs have been identified?
- Do not know
- Blanco- Would be great to have a list of MOSs and their job description.
- Flynn- A 01 would be an acceptable alternative for qualification and there is no difference as you go up?
Joe Curiel, San Antonio ISD
- Describes his working experience and how became a peace office
- I was in the military and trained marines
- I have 19 years of experience but not consider peace officer
- Went to TCOL and got a certification as a peace officer
- Detailed his career timeline
- Flynn- Did you have to go through the full academy?
- Gutierrez- Did anybody help you with the academy cost?
- I used my VA
- Gutierrez- Would you argue that the training you received as a military police officer was the same or better as the training you received at the academy?
- I was getting the training I already had, but the military was better
- Gutierrez- How long is the academy training?
- Three months
- Gutierrez- How long is it now?
- It has increased
- King- Is there a way you could bring retired military and police into your organization as an SRO and bypass what TCOL would require?
- If they don’t have police background, I would continue with the TCOL
- Not understanding what you are saying
- I would rather have a campus police officer than an SRO
- King- What is the difference between campus police and an SRO?
- An SRO is another agency and campus police are internal to the campus
- King- Do you see retired police officers or veterans providing any assistance to you?
- On the security side, to bring in military just to do security may cause some issues
- King- If they were military policemen, then they would have the right training.
- Blanco- A veteran is a broad universe of qualifications. Would you agree that not all veterans should have a spot?
- I agree
- Blanco- Which MOSs should be fast tracked?
- Johnson- Are you one of the 217 school districts that have a guardian on campus?
- No sir
- Wilson- In your hiring of former marines/army, have you found a difference of when they were in the service?
- Wilson- In terms of qualification, what do you see there?
- Age and maturity level
- Wilson- With your experience in the military, is there is a difference with MOSs and skilled training. When you look at the special operation side, there are individuals with multiple MOS. Would you agree?
- Wilson- As a chief you are not looking at totality of experience, but more of the training?
- Retired police officers who are full time employees are very beneficial
Chris Evoy, Austin ISD
- Retired military and Interim Chief
- There should be a consideration to reduce the amount of training for specialized military police officers
- It was not that hard for me to transfer from military police officer to peace officer
- Our department trains security and gives them to the school districts
- I have hired veterans and retired police officers and have had a very good experience with retired veterans
- Flynn- Do you use off duty local police officers?
- Yes and we use outside agency police officers
- Burns- Do the security officers you work with interact with students, teachers, etc.?
- Yes and monitor security cameras
- King- Is there anything in law that prohibits hiring a veteran or a retired police officer?
- Not that I am aware of
- King-Is there required training?
- As far as security there are not identified trainings
- The school hires the security
- King-There is nothing stopping you from using them in an unarmed capacity today?
- Wilson- If the law was changed to put veterans in any role you need, what qualifications would you look for?
- Their MOS, tenor in the military, and what their duties were
- Wilson-Have they brought anything with their application that gives them qualification or experience you mentioned?
- The application and the interview
- Wilson- Do you see other department information?
- Background Checks
Matthew Novosat, Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas
- One of our SROs is a military veteran, have retired police from Houston, and have 5 current SROs
- People who carry guns on campus should go through specialized training
Randy Willis, Granger ISD
- The legislature needs to fund rural ISDs as well
- Need the right type of person on campus; resource officers might not be necessary
- Anything the legislature can do to provide resources will benefit
- Give us a bigger set of guidelines
- Arévalo- What are your needs? Do you have the number of SROs you want, do you have barriers, is there competition with the big cities, etc.?
- Need help with all
- Need more visibility, more campus officers
- Johnson- Are any of you apart of the guardian program?
- Not currently
- Hinojosa- What are the needs we are lacking?
- Evoy- The school district has looked at safety; reached out to student staff and the community
- Evoy- Trying to add as much security as we can; school district has put in $1.7 million for safety; we only have SROs at middle schools and high school
- Burns- How many schools does Austin have?
- Evoy- Over 130 facilities
- Burns- So, $13,000 per school?
- Evoy- Yes
David Walker, Christoval ISD
- Training and Coordination costs money
- Retired police and military bring positive attributes that could help in various roles
- Would require training and incorporate them into the team
Lynn Murphy, Disability Rights Texas
- Plan for all students including those with special needs
- Highlight the need for and new school officer to complete training regarding conflict resolution techniques, de-escalation technique’s, mental health needs of disabled children, etc.
Morgan Craven, Texas Appleseed
- Discusses the role of law enforcement and retired veterans in schools
- There is research on what makes a school safe
- Mentions the FBI and secret service safety plan and how it does not mention adding veterans
- Should be focusing on intervention, prevention, and positive school efforts
- Hinojosa- I have heard our school districts have a lack of mentors. I am wondering what your position on implementing a veteran’s mentor group for high schools.
- The positive relationships between a positive adult and students are important
- People interacting with the students should be trained and follow the best practices
- Hinojosa- The mentoring programs would utilize veterans and provide them with good training.
Rick Briscoe, Open Carry Texas
- Advocates for the utilization of veterans and retired peace officers in schools
- The law as written wasn’t meant to address the circumstances we are in now
Terry Holcomb, Texas Carry
- Big issue with school sponsored events in the codes
- See a huge opportunity to use veterans and peace officers
- Veterans want to give schools their time
- Nevárez- What would be an objection having anyone who would want to become law enforcement officer?
- Objection from the school because that is not what they need
- Nevárez- Why would a school district not want a Gold Standard?
- I would have no objection with that
Carl John Zeitz, Self
- Most members of the military do not have proper training to approach an active shooter
- Should increase the number of school resource officers instead of employing veteran/peace officers on school districts
- There are better ways to do this than take volunteers and put them in schools
Jimmy Hammond, Self
- Retired military and federal law enforcement officer
- All criminal justice teachers must have a law enforcement background
- The actual first responder on campus is the educator
Tommy Verabruck, Self
- Retired police officer and current educator
- It is important to look at arming teachers, hiring retired police officers/veterans if they qualify
- There should be additional training but not to the extent of peace officers
Thomas Richardson, Self
- Discusses his background as a peace officer, veteran, military police, etc.
- Gives the Panel a document containing his recommendations for “school protectors”
- All retired police or military should have at least 20 years of experience
- 16 hours of active shooter training
- Will not be paid