December 21, 2012 at 9:15 AM
Local reaction to NRA proposal to put armed security in nation’s schools
The National Rifle Association has proposed putting armed security in every school in America in the wake of the shootings in Newtown, Conn. Here are reactions from various officials, institutions and departments on the NRA’s plan.
Gov. Chris Gregoire (via spokesman Cory Curtis):
The governor does not think more guns are the answer. She supports the President’s call for action including an assault weapon ban, increased support for mental health issues, and a look at violence in entertainment. Arming our schools is not a solution.
Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn:
The NRA has just shown that they are completely out of ideas. It’s time to stop listening to them and start working on real solutions.
King County Executive Dow Constantine:
Brilliant. How dim the NRA must think us all that we cannot see the problem to be schools or parents or games – anything other than the grotesquely irresponsible proliferation of guns.
Seattle School Board President Kay Smith-Blum:
She disagreed with the NRA’s proposal to put armed guards in the schools, and called for a ban on semi-automatic weapons.
Statistics show clearly that even when armed guards are present it doesn’t necessarily prevent significant violence from happening.
My thought – and I believe most of my counterparts in various districts across the nation – would be that the very first step should be to ban assault weapons . . . Those weapons create a significant risk to all of our communities, schools included.
Even with the security system at Sandy Hook, even with protocols, someone with an assault weapon in their hands was able to force their way into that school and create this horrific situation . . . As a nation, we need to have a serious conversation around what the Second Amendment really means.
Seattle Public Schools Office of Public Affairs
We are forming a joint working group with the Seattle Police Department to study all recommendations for improving our school safety, and this effort will begin early in 2013.
Together, we will formulate sustainable plans for implementing improved safety measures across the district. The security of our students and staff is our highest priority, and we look forward to working with our staff and community partners to implement improved safety measures across the district.
Walla Walla police Officer Tim Bennett:
They have one school resource officer who goes between their alternative high school and the two middle schools.
It’s all about preventing problems. If they [students] know there is a cop on campus, they’re less likely to do anything criminal,” Bennett said. “The SRO program would the last thing the city would ever consider dropping.
The department’s school resource officer and the officer at Walla Walla High School, who is a Walla Walla County sheriff’s deputy, are partially funded by the Walla Walla School District.
Yakima police Capt. Rod Light:
There are seven school resource officers, one at every high school, one at each middle school and one at the district middle school, Light said. It would be tough going if the if it the Yakima School District pay the majority of each school resource officer’s salary.
It helps a number of different ways. It helps with our call volume to the schools, it keeps our officers on the beat not responding to the schools. It’s a good fit. It’s a good means of mentoring young people. We’ve had great success, Light said.
Capt. Jim Keightley, Ellensburg Police Department:
There is one school resource officer, based at Ellensburg High School, but following the Connecticut shootings, the department put an officer at every school in the Ellensburg School District this week.
We’re a small school district, the SRO is staffed 50 percent by the police department and 50 percent by the school district. There has been no formal discussion of adding more. Our SRO is very active in the schools, security and investigating what’s going on.
The Ellensburg officer roams the district, investigating crimes at other schools if needed, Keightley said.
They are an on-duty police officer serving at the school. We’re very proactive in the security we provide at the high school and middle school.
Everett Police spokesman Aaron Snell:
To have a police officer at a school is a large financial obligation for the district and the police department. We believe there is an obligation, and we need to be in the schools. I don’t think it’s a foolproof plan because situations occur even when there is an officer there.
The Everett Police Department doesn’t have officers in elementary schools, but does have resource officers in middle schools and high schools, Snell said.
Pierce County sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer:
Armed guards at every school is not the answer, Troyer said.
You want your schools to be jails? A metal detector won’t stop anybody, somebody is going to shoot someone at the metal detector. I don’t know what the answer is; that ain’t it.
Troyer said they have about half-dozen school resource officers who assigned to each district in the county.
Our SROs are someone students can come to talk about problems at school or at home. Ours are mobile, they don’t stay at one school. They’re not an armed guard who will protect.
Renton police Det. Robert Onishi:
It’s an excellent resource. It’s a good idea to have people in the school who can respond faster. Otherwise we’re outsiders in schools. This person knows the staff, knows the administration, knows the kids and plays an active role.
Renton police have officers in three schools, but are on the verge of cutting them because of funding concerns.
King County sheriff’s spokeswoman Sgt. Cindi West
There is no way we can afford it. We are so short-staffed. We used to have more SROs (school resource officers) but those programs were cancelled because of funding. We have SROs at some of the high schools, but not elementary or junior high schools. We don’t have the manpower or the money.
School resource officers have been cut from schools across the country as tough economic times wore on.
Nationwide, we’re all concerned about what happened in Connecticut, but we have to be able to man the streets to respond to those calls we have every day.
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The Today File is a general news blog featuring real-time coverage of Seattle and the Northwest. It is reported by the news staff of The Seattle Times and edited by Assistant Metro Editor Nick Provenza.
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