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Should Armed Officer Be Assigned to Public Schools?

Should Armed Officer Be Assigned to Public Schools?

Philadelphia Inquirer via YellowBrix

April 09, 2011

PHILADELPHIA – Mayor Nutter and Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey are discussing a proposal to put armed city police officers in some schools as part of a comprehensive plan to improve safety and security for the 155,000 students enrolled in the Philadelphia School District.

“We can’t ignore the fact that we have a problem, and we have to regain control of the schools,” Ramsey said.

The discussions on remedying school violence took place last week, as The Inquirer was publishing a seven-part series, “Assault on Learning.”

The series detailed brutal attacks on students and teachers – thousands of assaults are recorded annually – and raised questions about whether the district’s incident-reporting system was understating the violence. Articles also showed how student-intervention programs pushed by Superintendent Arlene C. Ackerman and districtwide antiviolence efforts have been ineffective.

The School District issued a statement Friday saying it was “working closely with the Philadelphia Police Department and the office of Mayor Nutter to discuss ways to provide safety in our School District. It is an ongoing partnership, and we look forward to continued discussions.”

Both Nutter and Ramsey think that the Police Department should be in charge of school security and that putting city police in the schools is one way to help curb violence.

“There’s no question, that’s where they’d [Nutter and Ramsey] like to go,” Mark McDonald, the mayor’s press secretary, said Friday.

The Police Department began exercising more authority over district safety last summer, when it lent Inspector Myron Patterson to the district to replace safety chief James B. Golden.

Critics said increasing the police presence in the schools won’t solve the problem of violence.

“It’s not the appropriate response,” said Shelly Yanoff, executive director of Public Citizens for Children and Youth. “It does not work.”

Yanoff said she hoped “there is a full approach that deals with improving school climate, behavior treatment for kids who need it, and adopting with fidelity those approaches that have been researched and are shown to work.”

Michael Lodise, president of the School District police officers union, also questioned the idea.

“What is that going to solve?” he asked. “My guys are trained in dealing with these kids. I do not see any usefulness in it.”

Lodise complained this week that the district, as part of budget cutbacks, wanted to lay off 163 school police officers out of the 635 full- and part-time members of the force. District officials declined to confirm that figure.

“They want to cut 163 of my people and put in city cops, which they are short of on the street anyway,” Lodise said. “I don’t understand that.”

Others, including City Councilman Jim Kenney and Jerry Jordan, president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, supported the idea.

“Knowing Charles H. Ramsey and his ability, and the talent of his top commanders,” Kenney said, “I’m confident they can come up with a plan to improve safety in city schools.”

Jordan said he had been a teacher at University City High School in the 1980s when police officers were stationed in schools.

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