December 19, 2012: Starting in January, when students return from winter break, the Los Angeles Police Department will begin daily visits to the city's 540 public elementary and middle schools. In the aftermath of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, the LAPD's goal is to ease safety concerns and give officers a better chance of intercepting any possible acts of violence.
In a story by Joel Rubin, Howard Blume and Andrew Blankstein in the Los Angeles Times, LAPD's Chief Charlie Beck said private or charter schools will be included in this plan if they request to be.
Planning to divert an estimated 1,200 police officers a day to the schools, LAPD intends to send, whenever possible, the same officers to check on the same schools, both so the officers can become familiar with the staff and students, and to establish a sense of security in the school.
The [Sandy Hook]shooting, the chief said, has forced him to "recalibrate his department to this new reality."
"A barrier has been broken in our culture," Beck added at the news conference. "It's our job… all of our jobs, to make sure that we resurrect that barrier and make our children safe."
The Los Angeles Unified School District already spends $52 million annually on its own police force. The Los Angeles School Police Department (LASPD) is the largest independent school police department in the U.S. And, with over 350 sworn officers, 126 non-sworn safety school officers and 34 civilian support staff, it is the 14th largest police department in California. Even with a task force as large as this, Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent John Deasy made it clear that the police force is incapable of touching base with every school daily.
Until Friday, Beck said, he... didn't much worry about elementary schools. The school walls, he trusted, effectively sealed off the youngest of the city's students from whatever violence or other crimes may be unfolding outside them. The relatively few LAPD officers assigned to school issues focused almost entirely on the high schools.
Speaking of the new plan Beck added, "Logistically, it's a big deal, But it's us recognizing a new priority and that there is a new reality." Beck acknowledged that having a police presence at these schools doesn't guarantee the children's and staff's safety -- but it will help.
(Above: Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, left, Supt. John Deasy and LAPD Chief Charlie Beck discuss the new plan for LAPD to visit elementary and middle schools daily.)
Written by: Taylor McCulloch