Letter to the Editor: Every School Needs a Police Officer

by | Apr 20, 2023

East Greenwich School Superintendent Ricca recently made a passionate plea for us to finally step up and protect our children. It is apparent he cares deeply about school safety as do parents, grandparents, teachers, and community members. The 24-year anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting was April 20, and the debate over 2nd Amendment rights and the need for mental health interventions continues. However, until those arguments are settled, until all people with mental health issues are treated, until all weapons are removed from society, we still need to protect our children. Through the non-partisan group in which I have helped create (and which is comprised of parents in East Greenwich and across Rhode Island)—School Safety NOW—I propose that all Rhode Island schools should have the benefit of a law enforcement officer who can be the final layer of protection in a multi-faceted approach to school security.

It is important to understand that physical barriers and technology are just part of a comprehensive threat strategy. At the Covenant School in Tennessee, the building was locked, cameras were working, and after the attacker shot out the entrance door glass, lockdown alarms sounded. These barriers and enhancements did not stop the assailant from entering the building and killing six, innocent people. Furthermore, human error is sometimes responsible for people breaching an otherwise secure school campus. Doors are left propped open; visitors are not properly screened; protocols are not followed. As Dr. Ricca clearly pointed out, the only thing that stopped the suspect and limited the death toll was law enforcement.

By Dr. Ricca’s own words, law enforcement has the ability to stop school shootings. He stated that at the Covenant School, “[Police] engaged the suspect, and within two minutes of their arrival, the suspect was dead.” However, while students and staff were waiting in terror for 11 minutes for police to arrive, the shooter was able to murder six people without being challenged. Eleven minutes of terror. Eleven minutes of children sitting in a room helpless against a monster. Eleven minutes of teachers helping children remain calm and being terrified themselves, while thinking of their own families. We can all agree, arrival by police at that school was extremely quick.

Response time of a law enforcement officer stationed at a school is far superior to waiting for help to arrive from off campus. A 2019 report entitled Protecting America’s Schools: A U.S. Secret Service Analysis of Targeted School Violence (https://www.secretservice.gov/sites/default/files/2020-04/Protecting_Americas_Schools.pdf) looked at 41 incidents of targeted school violence that occurred at K-12 schools in the U.S. from 2008 to 2017. This table shows that the time it takes a law enforcement officer stationed at the school to actively respond to a threat is substantially shorter than in cases where police must respond from off-site. If your child’s school was under attack, wouldn’t you prefer an officer to already be on the premises, ready to stop the threat potentially before any lives were lost? In an emergency, every minute counts.

Dr. Ricca also argued that, at Covenant, there may have been a teacher who was armed. Perhaps that is the case, although it has not been substantiated by any authorities. What we don’t know is whether that teacher may have been killed in the attack, was absent, or was too afraid to leave their students to neutralize the assailant. But we would prefer not to guess. What is evident is that schools cannot rely on arming teachers to protect our children, nor should they. Our schools should depend on trained, experienced law enforcement officers whose sole responsibility is to safeguard our children while in school.

School security should not be an either/or situation. School Safety NOW’s non-partisan mission is not to battle with those who are advocating for gun legislation or mental health services but to work together with the Rhode Island General Assembly to renew and expand funding for law enforcement protection in schools. I agree with Senator Leahy: “We must protect our children. If we do nothing, we are not protecting them.” Let’s put law enforcement in all our schools now because tomorrow may be too late.

Kelly Santos, who lives in Warwick, has two children.

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April 22, 2023 8:36 am

There should be a law enforcement officer parked in their vehicle at all times at every school in the state, private or public. This expense should not be attached to the school department, but to the police department. The officers do not need to be in the schools, but they need to be on hand to respond. This is not a school department responsibility.

Tim Colgan
Tim Colgan
April 22, 2023 1:24 pm
Reply to  EGResident

I agree.. it is a state responsibility and should come from state and federal funding….it would be unfair to tax police departments and municipalities. Right now there is a 30 million dollar bill in-the house for school protection. If those monies were used for law enforcement in every school whose sole function is to protect students and staff we would be able to fund a policemen in every school public and private. Lets start really protecting our schools the same way we protect federal and local courts, airports, state houses, etc, put a cop at every school.

April 23, 2023 2:10 am
Reply to  Tim Colgan

First we should have legislation to ban assault weapons in Rhode Island.

Jennifer Mignanelli
Jennifer Mignanelli
April 22, 2023 9:08 am

I’m truly hopeful that this community can put aside political differences and join forces in a non partisan effort to provide safety to our children and the very staff who treat our children as their own. Waiting 3 minutes for law enforcement to show up after a shooting is 3 minutes and countless lost lives too many.

Cara Rooney
Cara Rooney
April 22, 2023 2:02 pm

We protect our elected officials, banks and other state and federal buildings with ARMED law enforcement. We “protect” our children with a sign that says “GUN FREE ZONE” and hope for the best. Let’s put our personal feelings and our politics aside and do the right thing for our children, our most PRECIOUS gifts. There needs to be an armed law enforcement officer at every school in this state and across the country. SCHOOL SAFETY NOW!!

April 23, 2023 7:56 pm

School safety should be a priority of all parents, law makers and educational leaders. When unfortunate crisis happen in schools it is the response of law enforcement which stops the threats that enter schools. Unfortunately even the short minutes it takes for them to respond can cost many young lives. The presence of armed law enforcement IN schools would not only shorten response times to threats entering the school but prevent schools as being targets. This is a non partisan issue, schools must be protected to stop and prevent senseless acts of violence.

Kelly Santos
April 24, 2023 6:54 am

Thank you for the publishing of this LTE. I urge those in support to join the FB Group under the same name. This group will show important meeting info, where you can purchase lawn signs and shirts, and how you can get involved to spread the word locally and in your own communities.

Catherine rodgers
Catherine rodgers
April 24, 2023 7:55 am

The website for School Safety Now is http://www.schoolsafetynow.com

Michael Holden
Michael Holden
April 24, 2023 4:26 pm

We are lucky enough to have two great SRO’s in our school District. SRO. Anderson and SRO Cole are awesome. We appreciate the work.

Nonpa citi
Nonpa citi
April 26, 2023 5:21 am

I agree that we should have a LEO in every school. No one objects to calling them when a school shooting is underway, why not be proactive instead of reactive and have them their already? Having a LEO in every school may act as a deterrent, it would certainly reduce response time. I understand many feel that gun laws or addressing the mental health crisis are the long term solutions to this issue, and they may be, but we have been fighting about those, for many, many years without a resolution and in the interim school shootings continue and throughout the years have increased. Our children and school staff remain unprotected and I am sure many, if not all, fear they will be the next statistic. It is time to stop politicizing this issue and instead actually DO something that may help deter or limit the casualties of a school shooting in our schools. How can a State legislature say they will not pass this bill but continue to have LEO in buildings they work in? There appears to be far less instances of mass shooting occurring at a State house / capitol building then in a school, at least that I am aware of. Ask yourself, why is that? Am I advocating for the removal of LEO in those State buildings? Of course not. I want them to be protected but I want our children and school staff to be protected as well. The purpose of an LEO would not need to be to act in a way to lead to further discipline in schools. In my town, EG, we already have SRO in the middle and high school at least part-time where that might be a concern. I would think there is less of a concern for increase discipline if LEO were in elementary schools. We need to get together in a nonpartisan way to protect our children and our staff the only one who benefits if we don’t is the next school shooter. Don’t let that happen.

April 26, 2023 5:55 am

It is sad to see little children loose their lives so soon. These killings can be avoided or stopped with police presence. School safety should be considered a priority. We should never think it would not happen to our schools. It is everywhere and we never know when a disturbed person will come to our schools. The staff is as important to us and our children. Police presence should be a priority.


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