Police in Schools

This Terrible Florida Sheriff Thinks Schools Should Be Arresting More Kids for Dumb Reasons to Stop Shootings

Mike Chitwood arrests 11-year-olds and then complains that officials aren't calling them more.


School protester
Jeff Malet Photography/Newscom

You want more cops in your schools to keep kids "safe"? This is what more cops in your schools looks like: Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood, of Volusia County, Florida, has arrested 30 children in two months for alleged "threats." Oh, and he's complaining that he's not arresting nearly enough kids.

Here's an example of a "threat" that got a 14-year-old girl arrested at a Volusia County school: She tapped on a school employee's shoulder and said "Bang, bang." His deputies have also arrested a child as young as 11. There may be more to it than Fox News is reporting, but what that 14-year-old is said to have done is not a crime or a threat for which anybody should be arrested. The report notes that under Florida law, some of the teens Chitwood's office has arrested will be charged as adults.

Chitwood has complained about the cost of responding to 90 calls per day from people who say they saw threats in school, but he's also worried that schools are not calling the police enough, opting instead to handle matters internally. Not calling the cops, he says, is "a big mistake." More people should be overreacting more often, so that Chitwood's over-worked deputies can arrest more kids for dumb reasons. But despite his insistence that he wants to be called more by schools, the ratio of calls to arrests suggests that schools are already calling him too often. Over this two-month period, he's apparently logged thousands of complaints that clearly did not turn out to be connected to actual criminal threats. Why is he asking for more of them?

"For us in law enforcement, we don't want to lose the momentum after Parkland. We lost it after Columbine and Sandy Hook," Chitwood laments in the Fox interview. "There was this initial outrage and then everybody went back to their normal life."

People went back to their "normal life" because mass violence incidents at schools, while horrific, are also rare, and schools are not any more dangerous than they used to be. People in Volusia County shouldn't go through life constantly worrying that somebody's going to shoot up or blow up schools, because they aren't likely to. Volusia County citizens should, however, be disturbed by Chitwood's desire to investigate, torment, and punish even more school students, potentially ruining their lives and saddling them with criminal records.

As a practical matter, residents should also be concerned that Chitwood wants to increase the size of the "threat" haystack police have to search through to find actual dangerous people. You may recall that authorities were warned on multiple occasions about the behavior of the Parkland, Florida, school shooter before his deadly rampage. The problem was not a lack of complaints, but an inability to sort and prioritize potential threats. How much better will Chitwood fare at this task considering he and his team are incapable of distinguishing actual criminal threats from childish behavior?

Punishing a bunch of teens in the name of "doing something" doesn't make schools safer. It ruins lives.