By Matt Kroschel
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS, Colo. (CBS4) – Routt County Sheriff Garrett Wiggins has two children in local schools. His wife is a teacher, and he is fed up waiting to act on strengthening school safety upgrades.
That’s why Wiggins says he is proposing a new county-wide school armed marshal program.
“An armed individual is the best way to go if somebody does get into the school. You need to deal with that threat with an equal or higher level of force,” Wiggins told CBS4.
He is asking local leaders to find a way to fund the proposal of hiring the marshals. It’s a program that he feels would look different from traditional school resource officers that many campuses already have across the state.
It could cost more than $1 million to fund the dozen or more marshals needed to staff all the schools.
Along with the armed marshals in every school, Wiggins wants schools to be changing policies to make it harder to get on campus and fortifying the buildings with more bullet-proof glass.
“It doesn’t seem like we’re getting a whole lot of support from the federal or state government on figuring out a way to prevent these things from happening so this is been on my mind for number of years,” Wiggins said.
The marshals would be different from a school resource officer because, unlike SROs who are usually sworn police officers who also deal with other school crimes related to students, the marshals would have no other responsibly than to protect campus — not act as police.
“I would love in a perfect world to see one position with their primary goal: to keep an eye on that school to prevent people from entering the school that we don’t want to enter the school,” Wiggins explained.
The sheriff’s proposal might cost more than $1 million. At this point, no one knows where that money will come from.
Wiggins says responses have been for the most part very supportive from parents. He says he heard from a few people who don’t want schools turning into “prison-like environments with more guns and more police.”
The county commissioners, school board members and other groups have yet to weigh in on the sheriff’s proposal.
Currently, Steamboat High School is the only school in the entire county with a full-time campus armed SRO.
They also have a locked door policy and all visitors must be buzzed into the office when arriving on campus. When CBS4 toured the school Wednesday, we were greeted with locked doors and the on duty police officer.
Wiggins does not know if the marshals would necessarily need to be sworn police officers with the power to arrest, but he says they would need training on how to handle active shooter situations.
“We only have minutes to end these attacks, we need someone there inside to protect these kids,” Wiggins said.