Schools Aren't Made Safer by
 Removing Police or Curbing Searches

by ALADS Board of Directors
There have been many solutions offered for the tragedies of school shootings in the past days, and surely many more will be generated in the days to come. However, among the ideas that should be swiftly rejected are those that seek to remove police from campus and ban safety measures such as metal detectors or random searches.

Yet, incredible as it seems, such are the demands of radical groups such as Black Lives Matter (BLM) who are demanding random searches be ended at city schools. Their effort is just the beginning of an undertaking that BLM describes as "abolishing policing in our schools." In the radical view of members of this movement, "policing is a derivative of slave catching" and ending random school searches is the beginning of the eventual removal of police officers from schools.

While one might dismiss these as nothing more than comments from extremist groups, it is incredibly disturbing to learn that the Los Angeles City Schools teacher's union (UTLA) has joined as a co-sponsor for a Black Lives Matter rally that will call for such extremist demands.

The union posted a flyer for the event on its website that boasted in its headline the rally was "a fight to end random searches and criminalization" at city schools. While UTLA leaders have since attempted to distance themselves from the radical demands of BLM to remove police from city schools, they refused a request by Gil Gamez, president of the LA School Police Officers Association for a letter in support of school police.

The 410 sworn police officers and 101 non-sworn school safety officers who make up the LAUSD school police department do an incredible job protecting the students of the schools they serve, ensuring campuses have a safe learning environment and providing positive role models for students. Just this past month, school police officers swiftly responded to a shooting at Sal Castro Middle School , locking down the school, tending to the wounded students and arresting the shooter. Since the Florida shooting tragedy where seventeen people died, schools in Los Angeles have had seven school shooting threats.

While some people are concerned with random searches on school campuses, a LAUSD survey last year found that 78 percent of parents polled agreed that random searches should be conducted at their child's school, while less than half of students surveyed felt the same way.

While activist groups and others may grab headlines with rallies and marches, they clearly do not have the backing of the parents of children who attend our local schools. In fact, following the shooting at Sal Castro, parents at the school vocally demanded that metal detectors needed to be installed to complement random searches.

Action Needed

In addition to the common-sense requests of parents for additional resources at schools, there are other steps that can be taken to increase the likelihood that authorities are alerted to and can respond to those who would threaten our schools. In California, there is presently no uniform method for alerting authorities of school threats or even knowing which school or police departments should be alerted. However, there is an in-place model that can be easily adopted in California.

In the wake of the Columbine High School massacre in 1999, Colorado authorities acted on recommendations to prevent, interdict and respond to potential school shootings. In particular, they created a state-wide program called " Safe2Tell, " which allows students and parents to anonymously report potential threats. Since the program was implemented, it has averaged 3,000 tips a year, with suicide threats or reports of bullying being the leading tips that are phoned in.

The State Legislature should pass legislation that creates a model such as Colorado's, which allows any tip to be made to a state-wide central hotline and then directed to the appropriate local authority or school to handle in an expeditious manner. The cost of this program would likely be minimal and the potential benefits enormous.

When citizens have the means and authorities are alerted to potential threats they can move rapidly to intervene. We saw this most recently when Los Angeles County deputies from the Norwalk Station responded to a call from a school security guard at El Camino High School in Whittier. The guard advised the responding deputies he had heard a student make verbal threats that he was, "going to shoot up the school sometime in the next three weeks." The deputies conducted a thorough investigation, determined there were weapons available to the named student and wrote and executed a search warrant. The search warrant yielded AR-15 rifles and nearly 100 high capacity magazines. Deputies confiscated the weapons and arrested the juvenile suspect who had threatened to commit a school shooting. Deputies also arrested the owner of the weapons, the juvenile's 28-year-old older brother, on felony charges.

Whatever responses California devises in the wake of the most recent school tragedy, the changes BLM and other radical groups want--removing any police presence from local schools--should not be among them. The best way to prevent future school tragedies is to have a statewide system to alert authorities of school threats and to encourage cooperation with local police and school police, not ban them from campus.

The Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs (ALADS) represents more than 7,900 Los Angeles County deputy sheriffs and district attorney investigators. Like our Facebook page 

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