Sheriff helps Florida university sidestep statewide firearm ban and arm faculty, staff anyway

The administrators at a Lakeland, Florida university are taking a common-sense approach to campus safety — and bucking a statewide prohibition of carrying concealed weapons on campus in the process.

Southeastern University is teaming up with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office to launch Florida’s first “Sentinel Program,” designed to beef up campus security and safety, according to The Ledger.

Under the program, select faculty and staff members will be given professional and comprehensive training in law enforcement. It’s the first program in the United States that will appoint those who successfully complete the training as special deputies.

Police firearm training at indoor range / Source: screenshot
Police firearm training at indoor range / Source: screenshot

It will also allow those who complete the program to carry concealed firearms, all of which would appear to violate state law.

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Florida statute 790.06(12) expressly prohibits students and faculty from carrying weapons on campus unless “the weapon is a stun gun or nonlethal electric weapon or device designed solely for defensive purposes and the weapon does not fire a dart or projectile.” reported on this issue:

The subject of campus carry in Florida has been contentious with both concealed and open carry banned by law with exceptions in place only for law enforcement. Lawmakers have repeatedly attempted to pass legislation to allow some form of legal carry since 2010 but, despite a shooting on the campus of Florida State University two years ago, have been unsuccessful.


Southeastern gets around this issue by deputizing those who complete the program. Law enforcement officers are exempted and may carry on campus. The selection and training process, however, is no cake walk.

Participants have to be selected by the university and screened by the sheriff’s office, including criminal background checks, drug testing and a psychological evaluation.

Then they’ll undergo 132 hours of training, including nine blocks of instruction on firearms, active shooters, defensive tactics and more.

“The safety of our students, faculty, and staff is a paramount concern for us at Southeastern University,” said Kent Ingle, president of Southeastern. “We are excited about this new program that will result in well-trained staff being available on campus to rapidly respond to any active assailant threat. We are committed to providing the safest learning environment possible for our university community.”

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Sheriff Grady Judd and SEU President Dr. Kent Ingle sign Sentinel Program documents / Source / SEU
Sheriff Grady Judd and SEU President Dr. Kent Ingle sign Sentinel Program documents / Source / SEU

Documents to set the program into motion were signed by Ingle and Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd on December 16 at the university.

“In addition to all the training, threat assessments, individual intervention, and technology we have invested into our security programs, we know one more critical thing we can do to reduce the number of lives impacted in an active assailant incident is a shorter response time for the good guys to interrupt and stop the bad guy,” said Judd.

Southeastern University is a Christ-centered private liberal arts college offering bachelor and masters programs. The first class of volunteer staff is set to start training in January, according to Ingle.

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