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December 22, 2012

Plan to arm cops in every school rejected


In a dozen or so interviews on the issue yesterday, only Evan Chaisson, a member of the Methuen School Committee, said he supported the proposal by Wayne LaPierre, the top lobbyist for the National Rifle Association, to post armed policemen at every school. Armed cops patrol Methuen schools, but are not in all school buildings at once.

“It provides a security blanket for the students and parents,” Chaisson said. “If there’s a cop in every building, the visibility factor alone will deter many incidents from happening in these buildings.”

Joe Spinale, an Andover lawyer who is the parent of a 15-year-old freshman at Andover High School, acknowledged that “times have changed, things have happened,” since his own high school days three decades ago. But he said any gun in a school, even one strapped to the waist of a police officer, can be a security risk for the same reason many jails and prisons don’t arm correction officers.

“I’m not concerned about the police officer, it’s more the armed issue,” Spinale said. “Sometimes firearms go off accidentally. If anyone were to disarm the officer, now you’ve introduced a firearm into the school. A lot of things could occur that wouldn’t if you hadn’t introduced the weapon in the first place. It’s tempting to think it’s a good idea, but it gives me concern.”

“It might be too much for the kids, especially the little ones, to see them around,” said Sheila Tate, a former president of the PTO at the Oliver School in Lawrence, who has a 5-year-old grandson and a 3-year-old great-grandson in the school. “They see a police officer and some kids think they’re in trouble. They get afraid.”

Frank McLaughlin, president of the Lawrence Teachers Union, said he has Chief Romero “on speed dial,” although he said the two don’t speak often. He said the police assigned to city school buildings allow the schools act proactively and “solve problems before they occur,” but said assigning a cop to every school would do little to solve the problems facing the city.

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