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Staten Island panel recommends armed officers in schools

January 08, 2013|By Alana Semuels
  • A Marlboro Township, N.J., police officer directs school buses out of the Delfino Central Elementary School parking lot.
A Marlboro Township, N.J., police officer directs school buses out of the… (Doug Hood / The Asbury Park…)

NEW YORK --  A school panel in Staten Island has passed a controversial resolution recommending that armed, retired NYPD officers patrol local schools in the interest of security in the wake of the school shootings in Newtown, Conn.

Though the panel has the power only to make recommendations to the city’s Board of Education, which has vowed not to adopt the plan, it signals that school districts across the East Coast are at least paying some mind to the proposal made by the National Rifle Assn. in December to put armed guards in schools

At least two school districts in New Jersey, in Marlboro Township and the Totowa School District in Passaic County, began the 2013 school year with armed police officers in elementary and middle schools.

The Staten Island plan, approved Monday evening, had two prongs, according to Michael Reilly, the co-chair of the Safety and Transportation Committee for Community Education Council 31, in Staten Island. The first would install video cameras and buzzer systems so that visitors would need to buzz in to enter. The second would hire 300 to 500 retired NYPD officers as special armed patrolmen, giving them peace officer status in the schools.

“You cannot totally prevent any incident,” Reilly said, “but this is an approach that’s a comprehensive plan – it’s something that can be done when an incident happens.”

Reilly, a retired cop, says he cooked up the idea by looking through the city’s administrative code. Because retired officers have concealed weapon permits, the city won’t need to provide them with weapons, and students won’t have to see the weapons out in the open. The officers, dressed in plain clothes, would rotate through the district’s schools, working from the first bell to the last. Reilly, who had three children in New York’s public schools, says the officers would work as a deterrent to would-be criminals.

“The main purpose of the plan is to prevent anyone from picking a school,” he said. “Deterrence is the ounce of prevention that stops it.”

Still, Reilly’s plan isn’t likely to go anywhere, mostly because New York’s mayor, Michael Bloomberg, is an outspoken proponent of gun control. His office is even advising Vice President Joe Biden’s task force on gun control legislation.

Schools chancellor Dennis Walcott expressly shot down the Staten Island plan in a news conference this week.

"It’s not happening,” he said. “Plain and simple ... I can’t be any clearer than that."

Alana.semuels@latimes.com

@alanasemuels

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