Chris Bryant is an armed police officer who has spent every school day for the last 12 years at Hoover High School in Alabama protecting hundreds of kids.
He is a school resource officer (SRO), a sworn Hoover Police officer who is armed and specially trained to be inside schools and working with children.
Bryant said when he heard that the resource officer at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida apparently stood outside a school building while a former student killed 17 teachers and teenagers inside, he felt sick to his stomach.
“I can’t believe that somebody that was in my position for so long (would do that),” he said of Scot Peterson, a Broward County Sheriff’s deputy who was the SRO for the school in Parkland.
A security guard ‘doesn’t love the children’
Bryant also took issue with comments by President Donald Trump last week, who called SROs a kind of “security guard” and suggested that teachers should be armed.
“See, a security guard doesn’t know the children, doesn’t love the children. This man standing outside of the school the other day doesn’t love the children, probably doesn’t know the children. The teachers love their children,” the President said Friday.
Bryant rejected that characterization.
“Bottom line: I would take a bullet or an ass-whupping for you because you’re my kid,” he said. “That’s my building that I’m sworn to protect. I didn’t go to Hoover High School but I’m a Hoover Buccaneer through and through.”
Bryant says he voted for Trump, is “as conservative as the day is long” and continues to support the President. But he says Trump’s comments about school resource officers insult the work officers like him do every day.
“I’m not a security guard, I’m a law enforcement officer,” he said.
The officer said he thinks one of the best ways to make schools safer is to have more SROs who are trained to do the very thing that Peterson reportedly did not do: rush into the school building when there is an active shooter.
The Hoover City Council announced last week it hired two more part-time SROs, according to the Hoover Sun, meaning all of its 16 schools will now have a resource officer.
Like a big ‘meet-and-greet’
Bryant, like other SROs, is on the job from before the first bell until well after the last at the school in Hoover, Alabama, just south of Birmingham. He spends his days roaming the halls, talking to students who have in school suspension, monitoring security camera feeds and, sometimes, breaking up fights or looking into suspected drug use. He even travels with the schools’ sports teams across the country.
“It’s like a big meet-and-greet all day,” Bryant said. “Kind of like a doctor — you make your rounds.”
He spends his entire day staying on top of what the kids at his school are up to.
Peterson was also regarded as a good resource officer and was named SRO of the Year in 2014 by the Broward County Sheriff’s Office. Deputies and officers assigned to schools in Florida, like Peterson, are trained by the state’s Attorney General’s office. Peterson was suspended without pay and later resigned after the deadly shooting.
Bryant says he can understand why some people believe that arming teachers is the best way to protect children, but he believes that an officer like him is a much safer choice.
“The idea of teachers having guns, initially, hey, that makes me feel good,” Bryant said. “(But) how do you get them in the mindset that they are responsible for each bullet that comes out of that gun? Without proper training, and years of it?”
SRO group says registrations on the rise for training
Bryant was a bomb technician with the Hoover Police Department for 12 years, a SWAT officer for three years, and received 40 hours of basic training to become an SRO. He also goes to conferences every year to stay current on state law and trends in school policing.
The National Association of School Resource Officers says since the Parkland shooting, it has seen a surge in registrations for the training sessions it sponsors for officers across the country. Executive Director Mo Canady says only about 20% of public schools in the country have SROs. Now he’s calling on communities to do whatever is necessary to fund a resource officer in every school in America.
“There are plenty of cities and counties who have funded this position,” Canady said. “It has to be all the way down to the local community that’s buying into this.”