With the death of yet another child to gunfire just outside a school, Philadelphia school chief executive Paul Vallas yesterday pushed city officials to assign two armed city police officers to about two dozen large high schools, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. The police commissioner spurned the idea. “I don’t want to make schools armed penitentiaries,” Commissioner Sylvester Johnson said.
Vallas maintained that the police must “have a presence in those schools. If you have two officers at the entrance to that school, and they’re there every day, it helps with intelligence-gathering. They develop a rapport with those kids. They get to know the officers, and the officers get to know the kids.” Instead of asking that officers be stationed inside the schools, Vallas suggested that two officers, whose responsibilities would include lessons inside on safety issues, be based just outside and regularly patrol the immediate neighborhood. The school district’s own police force of 475 officers has arrest powers, but those officers do not carry guns. Vallas, who met with Johnson and other city officials, proposed applying to the U.S. Department of Justice for $5 million to pay for about 40 officers a year for three years. Debra Kahn, Mayor John Street’s education secretary, said there might be room for compromise between Johnson and Vallas in using federal money for more officers. Vallas said other cities, including New York, have received federal funding to put armed officers in schools.