Shane Hudson, deputy chief of the Unified Police Department, is wrapping up a 31-year law enforcement career when he retires in July.
His dream now is to be a high school teacher.
Hudson’s history and his future intersect at a time when gun violence in schools has the nation on edge and has spurred debate about whether we should turn teachers into quasi-cops, armed and ready if a shooter invades the campus and threatens students.
His perspective offers some valuable insight into the thorny issue of mass murders with assault weapons in schools and individual gun rights.
For Hudson, when he trades in his badge for a whiteboard, “I will want to be armed” while teaching. His experience and training afford an opportunity to provide a level of safety that others might not have.
But that doesn’t mean he buys into the arguments of President Donald Trump and the National Rifle Association that, as a matter of policy, teachers should be armed and trained to do battle.
If teachers feel comfortable with a concealed weapon and want to carry one, Hudson said, they should be allowed. But he maintains there are better ways to teach educators how to protect their students than turning them into law enforcers.
“It takes hours and hours of training and experience to make the right decisions when it comes to pulling out a gun, pointing it at people and using it as a tool to get compliance and provide protection,” he said. “I’m a 31-year police officer, and I’m still learning.”
Teachers should be trained to focus on classroom safety, he said, while the professional police do their jobs by confronting the shooters with force.
It would be better to have trained off-duty officers on campuses in the event of an assault, Hudson added, while teachers are trained to “lock their classroom doors, hunker down, keep the students quiet.”
“When we’re going into a shooting situation, we’re going all-in. We’re going to where the gunfire is,” Hudson explained, noting that a teacher firing back could create confusion and lead to disastrous consequences if the officers don’t have a clear picture of who the good and bad guys are.
It’s imperative that officers have some obvious identification, perhaps a vest that signals they are on law enforcement’s side. But he noted those bent on shooting up schools could figure that out and get their own vests, adding to the confusion.
School districts, he figured, aren’t thrilled with the potential liability that could arise with armed teachers in their schools.
As for some of the gun control measures that have been suggested, Hudson said he favors “expanded background checks, and I don’t understand why you can buy an assault rifle at a lesser age than a handgun.”
He doesn’t advocate banning certain types of assault rifles. “I don’t own one,” he said, “but I have relatives who do.”
The profession that Hudson is leaving and the one he hopes to join both suffer from personnel shortages. Police officers and teachers are bolting from those jobs at alarming rates and not enough prospective replacements are applying to fill the void.
Both have problems keeping their employees for similar reasons — poor pay, lack of respect and stress.
But Hudson sees an opportunity to be a distinct asset in the school environment because of his decades as a cop.
“I’ve had a lot of experience with people who have made bad choices, who have dealt with hard times in their lives,” he said. It has taught him that while those individuals must deal with the consequences of their actions, room also exists for compassion for them and a desire to help them overcome their demons.
Of course, a big reason for the troubles these people face is drug addiction.
If Hudson can recognize high school kids who might be vulnerable to a bad path in life, he might be able to reach them early and prevent long-term heartache.
Hudson wants to teach American government, civics, political science and criminal justice.
When he begins drawing his retirement this summer, he must wait a year before going back into a government job, according to state law. But he’ll use those 12 months to finish his degree and earn his teaching certificate.
Hudson fell in love with the high school environment earlier in his career when he was a resource officer. He also taught a criminal justice class as part of that duty and was energized by the interaction with eager students.
“One of the most rewarding things for me,” he said, “is to have a [law enforcement] recruit come up to me and say, ‘I took your class.’”