24 February 2015

Armed Cops Inside City Schools A Bad Idea -- Opinion

Measure Being Considered Would Authorize Baltimore City Schools Police To Patrol School Hallways While Armed
24 February 2015

By A.F. James MacArthur 
Agitator In Chief 
On Twitter: @BaltoSpectator 

Should Baltimore City Schools Police be able to roam the hallways of our public schools while packing heat?

As this is being written, the public is weighing in on that very same question at Baltimore Public School headquarters on North Ave.

That children in school need a comfortable, secure environment at school in order to thrive is without question. Well documented tensions between the black community and police shouldn't be ignored when thinking of this. Are we simply trying to increase intimidation and the fear factor for students?

Currently schools police -- Baltimore is the only school district in the state with it's own dedicated force -- patrol outside the buildings and on campus grounds armed, but are supposed to secure their weapons when routinely entering the interior of the premises.

First something should be made absolutely clear. In a true emergency, responding officers from outside the building would be able to have their weapons with them. This has never been a question. The matter is concerning routine operations, when nothing is going on, except children hopefully trying to learn.

Secondly, as any security or intelligence professional can tell you, by the time you need an armed response inside of a controlled access building like a school, you've already failed on multiple levels.

Good security is all about proactive prevention, not reacting after all hell has broken loose.

School Shouldn't Resemble Prison

In our jails and prisons, the guards aren't allowed to have firearms inside. Only exterior personnel and transportation teams are armed.

If we don't even let trained, certified law enforcement carry guns inside a prison -- filled with dangerous hardened criminals -- it is absolutely inconceivable to think that our children's schools should be any different.

Despite over-hyped, played up active shooter incidents in schools making the news more these days, the truth is; in the big picture, their occurrence is not nearly as frequent as sensationalist media would lead you to believe. There is an active hidden propaganda being pushed to place the public in perpetual fear.

Also, in most of those cases, police response -- from outside -- was incredibly quick. There's little evidence suggesting a handful of officers already inside the building would make much difference.

Reality Very Different From Movies

When an active shooter situation goes down, things happen fast. An officer isn't just going to draw his weapon and run around like a cowboy looking for the shooter. Most likely, he'd take a strategic position of cover and do his best to access the situation, while awaiting for backup to arrive.

So yes, your man inside would be armed, but unless he happened to be standing right there when the shooting begins - slim chance -- it's likely his presence won't matter as much as we'd like to think.

The shooter would simply go somewhere in the building where there are no police to commence shooting. Or worse; the shooter may target and ambush the armed officer to ensure his heinous plot can carry on without interference.

Basic Solutions Should Be Sought

The truth is, there are a lot of things we should be doing to secure schools that we're probably not doing enough of. Increased vigilance and training of all staff goes a long way. Well developed and rehearsed security and emergency plans need to be just as important to staff as lesson plans.

Proactive patrol and maintaining tight exterior security along with monitored controlled access points, high quality surveillance, and engaging gate keepers are among some of the things that have proven to be successful.

There's also the mental health component. Our society has long struggled in the way of screening, and treating people suffering from  various psychoses.

Most children who perform violence at school show plenty of warning signs long before anything happens. They're acting out, begging for help. They instinctively want an adult to reach out to them and show concern. More effort to connect with troubled youth would go a long way to increase safety for everyone involved, students and staff.

In the case of exterior, non-student threats, again, that's where having well trained, vigilant, highly observant officers on point makes all the difference in the world.

At a school, the vast majority of the individuals moving in and out should be students. They greatly outnumber staff.

Adults working at the school should have visible ID, with gatekeepers actively checking them. Unfamiliar faces should be challenged and verified before being allowed entry.

The idea of armed police in our schools is a bad one at so many levels.

One immediately thinks of the great deal of accidental discharging and so called "friendly fire" shootings that have taken place in Baltimore over the years. The police here have shot their own officers. On numerous occasions.

By not having armed police roaming the halls, you eliminate a student being accidentally shot by nearly 100%.

Imagine having to explain to the parents and the public how some kid got shot because he was reaching into his backpack -- full of books -- while mouthing off to an officer, who happened to feel in fear of his life. It's a nightmare scenario.

Part of the path towards the great American dream is obtaining a good quality education. We should be working on ensuring our schools meet the highest standards possible, instead of constructing scenarios where they appear more terrifying and foreboding to students than even a jail.

However noble it's initial intentions may be, the measure is troubling at best, downright dangerous and scary at worse.

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With prior experience in security and intelligence, Director of the MacArthur Institute Center For Advanced Analysis and Critical Comparison; occasional media critic, researcher, independent investigator, and entrepreneur, A.F. James MacArthur is Baltimore's most well known independent journalist contributor. A member of the underground news network for over 20 years. During this time, he's been a frequent subject of attack by government under the guise of law enforcement. Although closely watched and followed, he's often boycotted from being given any credit for his work by mainstream media.
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