From New York’s Staten Island borough, an idea has emerged to tap into the city’s vast network of retired police officers as an armed force to patrol the schools.
Staten Island’s Community Education Council is voting Monday on a proposal to hire 300 to 500 retired police officers to serve as plainclothes security guards, carry concealed weapons and rotate among the city’s 1,750 schools.
While the idea has gained some support in a borough that is home to many current and former officers, it has little chance of becoming a reality. That’s because the 10-member borough’s council only has the power to make a recommendation to the larger New York City school board. That board and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, one of the nation’s most outspoken gun-control advocates, have already indicated they have no interest in putting armed guards in schools.
Still, after the deadly elementary-school shooting in Newtown, Conn., last month that killed 20 first-graders and six educators, some Staten Island parents say the idea is worth considering.
“It’s a good idea in the wake of what happened,” said Ruben Ayala, who has a second-grader and a kindergartener in the schools. “I’m all for that, especially if it’s retired police officers.”
Audrey Miller thinks the plan doesn’t even go far enough. She’d like to see armed security full time at the school where her daughter is in kindergarten. “If they’re here from the time the building opens until the last child is gone, then I’ll have a sense of security,” she said. “Then I know my child is safe.”
Retired officers are likely to support such a program, said Kevin Meurer, a former NYPD lieutenant who served 22 years until he retired in 2010 from a Staten Island precinct. “You have thousands of trained guys who could do this without breaking a sweat,” he said.
The potential to earn extra cash would appeal to many retired officers, especially those who have been off the force for some time and see inflation at work on their pensions, Meurer said. But there would also be a pull to serve their city once again. “Ita calling being a cop; it’s not just a job.”
Rotating the armed officers through the various schools would mean that someone with bad intentions would never know if a particular school is being patrolled, similar to the way armed air marshals may be on any given passenger plane.
Currently, school safety agents, part of the New York Police Department’s Schools Safety Division, are not armed. They staff schools and entrances to check photo IDs and sign in visitors. They also help monitor for safety. If there is a criminal or violent incident, the NYPD is called.
There are 10 schools that are patrolled by armed police officers as part of a special program, none on Staten Island, but school officials say that is not representative of the school system as a whole.
The NYPD hasn’t responded to questions about the use of retired officers being used to patrol schools. According to the proposal, the officers would be hired as independent contractors at no extra cost to the city.
Bloomberg called the Staten Island proposal a “terrible idea” when it was raised last week.
And although the vote has yet to take place, the city Department of Education dismissed it Friday. “We are not considering their proposal,” a spokeswoman said in an email.