Arm­ing school po­lice is con­sid­ered

School board hosts fo­rum on whether school-based of­fi­cers should carry guns

Baltimore Sun - - NEWS - By Talia Rich­man trich­man@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/Tal­iRich­man

Bal­ti­more re­mains deeply di­vided about the best way to keep city stu­dents safe in their schools.

Some ar­gue that school po­lice of­fi­cers must be al­lowed to carry guns in the build­ing in case an armed in­truder bursts in with the in­tent to harm chil­dren and their teach­ers. Oth­ers say arm­ing these of­fi­cers will strengthen the school-to-prison pipe­line and create more dan­gers for the pre­dom­i­nantly African-Amer­i­can stu­dent pop­u­la­tion.

Pas­sion­ate ad­vo­cates for both sides of the is­sue packed the school sys­tem head­quar­ters Thurs­day as the school board once again raised the ques­tion: Should Bal­ti­more al­low school-based of­fi­cers to carry guns while pa­trolling the hall­ways?

And while the packed room was in two clear camps, 66-year-old Ralph Moore ap­peared to earn ap­plause from ev­ery­one.

“We’re all con­cerned about the safety of chil­dren and teach­ers in the schools. On that we agree eas­ily,” he said. “Can we also stip­u­late that we’re all afraid? It’s get­ting crazy out here, and we feel that.”

This is­sue last roiled the city in 2015 when the school board asked the Bal­ti­more leg­isla­tive del­e­ga­tion to change the cur­rent law, which pro­hibits school po­lice from car­ry­ing guns dur­ing oper­at­ing hours. The board mem­bers did so with­out seek­ing any pub­lic in­put.

Board chair Ch­eryl Cas­ciani pledged to do things dif­fer­ently this time.

The board doesn’t have the power to man­date whether of­fi­cers carry guns or not, but it can ask the leg­is­la­ture to make changes. Un­til that hap­pens, the roughly 90 city schools po­lice of­fi­cers will be per­mit­ted to carry their ser­vice weapons while pa­trolling the ex­te­rior of a school be­fore and af­ter school hours. But they are re­quired to store their weapons in a se­cure lo­ca­tion dur­ing the school day.

Bal­ti­more Demo­crat Del. Ch­eryl Glenn said she sup­ports al­low­ing school po­lice to carry their guns in the build­ings.

“Hav­ing sworn po­lice of­fi­cers have weapons with them is a mat­ter of be­ing proac­tive and not re­ac­tive,” she said. “I’m look­ing for­ward to ad­dress­ing this is­sue in the up­com­ing ses­sion.”

Stu­dent lead­ers with Youth As Re­sources said they’re con­cerned about kids’ per­cep­tions that school po­lice al­ready use ex­ces­sive force. The stu­dent-led com­mu­nity or­ga­niz­ing group is against al­low­ing school po­lice to carry guns.

“Re­la­tion­ships be­tween po­lice and youth are dis­trust­ful enough with­out po­lice in our school hav­ing guns,” said 16-year-old Jerell Smith, a stu­dent at For­est Park.

Bal­ti­more is the only ju­ris­dic­tion in Mary­land with a sworn school po­lice force. In sur­round­ing coun­ties, lo­cal po­lice or sher­iff’s de­part­ments pa­trol schools and are al­lowed to carry their weapons.

Some par­ents on Thurs­day night ques­tioned why — in a time when sub­ur­ban coun­ties are boost­ing school se­cu­rity in the wake of highly pub­li­cized shoot­ings — Bal­ti­more’s po­lice are ex­pected to pa­trol the halls with empty hol­sters.

That leaves them com­pro­mised should an of­fi­cer need to re­spond to an ac­tive shooter, par­ents and teach­ers said.

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