So many mistakes have been made in the name of “keeping the peace.” Such is the case for the school board in Compton, Calif., who reportedly voted to arm campus police officers with AR-15 rifles (pictured). And so, as students begin their school year this week, they can look forward to the prospect of their campus police officers going G.I. Joe in drag on any given day. When appearing before the board, Compton Unified Police Chief William Wu said, “This is our objective — save lives, bottom line.”
All I can hear right now is “whoa dere, daddy, daddy.”
Who exactly are they protecting students from with such weaponry?
According to the Los Angeles public radio station KPPC, Wu claims that officers “are woefully underequipped in the event of a terrorist attack or mass shooting, in which shooters increasingly wear body armor, which is not penetrable with standard firearms.”
Riddle me this, Batman: What beef does Hamas have with the students of Compton, California? Not to mention, since when are the “urban schools” known for mass shootings? And how many of these mass shooters are showing up with body armor?
Wu went on to explain, “Handguns you’d be lucky to hit accurately at 25 yards. With a rifle in the hands of a trained person, you can [fire at] 50, 100 yards accurately.”
Take three teaspoons of paranoia, a dollop of crazy talk, and blend it with the tragic trend of treating even civilian institutions, such as public schools, as a war zone and what you have is a recipe that’s perfect for gun manufacturers and nauseating to the rest of us.
However, the police union continues to defend the move, writing:
If we encounter an active mass murderer on campus with a rifle or body armor, our officers may not adequately be prepared to stop that suspect. School Police Officers will undergo a training course, followed by a shooting proficiency test on a firing range and a written exam. The rifles are designed for increased accuracy and use rifled ammunition than can pierce body armor. The safety of our Students, Staff, and Parents are very important to us.
New York Times columnist Ross Douthat refutes such logic, noting that “the evidence that such sprees are sharply increasing is shaky and debatable and the evidence that a more militarized police is necessarily crucial to stopping such killers seems thin as well.” Douthat also made note of recent events in Ferguson, Missouri, writing that “the question raised by the trajectory of events in Ferguson is whether the use of military tactics by ordinary cops early in a protest-driven crisis is the best way to forestall such a breakdown, or whether it actually makes that point of breakdown more likely to arrive.”
The Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf commented on the “nationwide trend of militarized police force” adding that this is taking place “in schools with heavily armed city and county police agencies nearby.” I imagine Wu and other defenders of this move could also cite issues with gangs having heavy military in the area, but even in that scenario, why can’t they handle that issue with the armor already provided, or if nothing else, contact SWAT and other agencies in the area if necessary?
What troubles me most about this, though, is that in the last few weeks, we have been provided with horrific reminders that there are plenty members of law enforcement with a blatant disregard for Black life. Moreover, many of these officers refuse to use the other tools on their belt before reaching for their gun, and when they do reach for their guns, they’re shooting to kill as opposed to wound.
Cops, much less ones on public school campuses, don’t need this sort of weaponry. Period.