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Firm hired to protect elementary schools under fire

School guns
Posted at 5:20 PM, Sep 10, 2014
and last updated 2014-10-02 13:13:26-04

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Young students in Manatee County will soon notice something different when they arrive at school: an armed security guard.

The Manatee County School Board voting Tuesday to award a contract to Sarasota Security Patrol to place an armed guard at all 32 elementary schools in the district. But like any story involving schools and guns, there are concerns being raised.

Jeff Clifford has three young children who will begin attending elementary school in Manatee County soon, and is all for the armed guards. “We have security guards at banks, McDonalds, in the mall, the spend 8 hours a day in school. They should be able to stay safe there too.”

Three school board members agree, voting to approve the contract Tuesday.

But school board member Dave Miner isn’t so sure. He and Bob Gause voted against the idea. “The concern is having non-law enforcement officers with handguns in our school. I am very concerned that it doesn’t increase safety, but it may be creating a problem for safety.”

Minor is also upset over the process to hire a company -- a process he says was rushed. “It's important that we go about this, that we have time to deliberate and communicate. All of the information was not in as far as deciding what was best for our children and taxpayers.”

Clifford believes anything the district can do to keep kids safe from violence is what's best. “We should do everything we can to prevent that, especially when it comes to children. They can't defend themselves.”

So here's what we know about Sarasota Security Patrol. According to the company's website, they have been serving Southwest Florida since 1962. The company's armed guards are retired military, federal agents, and former law enforcement. Those guards will carry 9mm handguns at the schools.

The president of the company is 36-year-old Chad Allen Ritchie. We've confirmed through a background check that in January 1996, Ritchie was arrested and charged with a felony for impersonating a police officer.

Minor even brought this concern up at Tuesday's meeting, but the board still voted to approve the contract.