LIMA — A man who has been one of the state’s top cops told fellow officers Friday communities need to take steps such as arming teachers and changing their approach to the war on drugs to protect and better society.
Former Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation head John Lenhart was the guest speaker for the Lima Exchange Club’s Law Enforcement Officer of the Year luncheon Friday. He told people about a program in Shelby County, where he is the sheriff, that armed about 125 school staff members. He said the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut that left 20 children and six adults dead was the changing point.
Lenhart took a serious look at the issue and realized the only way to stop an evil person dedicated to killing is to stop the person on the spot.
“You have got to put the killer down,” he said.
With many schools in rural areas, police may be more than 10 minutes away.
That is unacceptable when an active killer, on average, shoots a victim every 17 seconds. Response time is critical and must be immediate. Arming teachers and staff is the answer, he said.
Lenhart led an effort in Shelby County to arm teachers and school staff. They received extensive training to deal with active shooters, he said.
Lenhart, who is well-respected in law enforcement circles after heading BCII, before returning to Shelby County to be the sheriff, said police are losing the war on drugs.
“We can’t arrest our way out of this mess. That is never going to happen,” Lenhart said.
The drug problem has been going strong since Lenhart began his career in the 1970s. It remains strong as ever with heroin taking over and destroying lives, even the lives of people he knows, he said.
Lenhart said 75 to 80 percent of people in jail are in there because of drugs. Whether someone was busted for having drugs or stole something to pay for drugs, he said.
He said the current way of fighting drugs is not working.
“I’m going to suggest we attack it from a different perspective,” he said. “We’re obviously losing he war, if it is a war on drugs.”
The Shelby County Sheriff said people need to invest in children by helping out and getting them into positive activities early such as Boy Scouts, 4H, Future Farmers of America, YMCA programs, anything positive, he said.
“We have got to focus on those kids who are at risk,” he said.
He also said arresting users and making them felons is the wrong approach. A good person who gets involved with drugs and ends up with a felony on his or her record will never be able to get a good job again. He said the answer is treatment, not punishment that harms the person for the rest of his or her life.