Police Officers in schools; is it want or need?

By Joe Angelino

A new school year is upon us and already there’s been violence reported. Last week there was yet another student-on-student fatal shooting in a public high school, this time in Spokane, Washington. Without trying to sound insensitive, the Spokane incident involved only one killed and three wounded. This may not even make the FBI’s list of school active shooter incidents and it is being dealt with by local authorities as a simple crime of murder.

Coincidently the same day closer to home, the Sidney High School and police department were dealing with a non-specific threat of violence by gunfire that turned out to be false. The Sidney type incident plays out with near daily regularity all over the United States thanks to social media spreading rumors like wildfire. Adding to the authenticity of social media gossip is the police investigation itself. When the police show up, the most far-flung rumor now has added credibility of a law enforcement scrutiny.

Often a school violence incident, even far distant, will be followed by a knee-jerk, loud call for cops in the local schools. In a school setting the teachers and principal should be the authority figures. I was never in favor of permanently assigned officers to specific school buildings. I preferred that any officer on patrol could stop in any school building during the school day to chit-chat, be seen and if the timing was right, sit down for lunch. That procedure was much more relaxed, gave the opportunity for all officers to participate, and did not diminish school official’s disciplinary clout in the eyes of students. But, to have an officer permanently assigned to a school just didn’t sit well with me for a variety of reasons.

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