Should There Be a Police Officer at Every School?

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    NEWSLETTERS

    After Oregon school resource officers were credited with halting a deadly school shooting, NBC 7's Wendy Fry looks into what it takes to get police officers on campus.

    Oregon school resource officers are being hailed as heroes for being on-campus and preventing further massacre in this week's most recent school shooting.

    More locally, in Chula Vista, police officers were able to respond within three to five minutes to reports of a gun on campus at Hilltop High School last month.

    Chula Vista Police Department Officer Tom Craft told NBC 7 the relationships he builds with students and school staff helped prevent another tragedy.

    "They can come up to us and ask us anything," Craft said, "or tell us anything - something that's wrong." 

    Craft is a school resource officer assigned to Hilltop High. Last month, he was the first to respond - within three minutes - and help take the Hilltop freshman, who brought a loaded .44-caliber revolver, into custody.

    No one was hurt.

    "That incident could have been a very, very sad, unfortunate incident that happened," said Sweetwater Union High School District spokesman Manuel Rubio. "As it is, it is an unfortunate incident that happened, but we were able to control the situation, deal with the situtation immediately."

    Craft said there should be a school resource officer on every school campus in the United States.

    "Ideally, if there were resources, I think that would be a great thing to happen," Rubio said. "As it is and the way it's structured now, I think we do have a pretty good handle on what's going on."

    Sweetwater schools pays $745,000 a year to four different law enforcement agencies for 14 officers, which works out to about one officer for every two schools.

    Craft told NBC 7 that is a small price to pay for police officers to be able to build relationships with students that make schools safer.

    "The culture's changed. They come up and give us hugs. They give us handshakes," Craft said. "They say, 'Hi officer, Do you have a sticker? What's that on your belt?' Not like, 'Oh, no, we're in trouble. Why are the police here?'" 

    A recently graduated Chula Vista High School student told NBC 7 the police presence on campus can feel oppressive, but in this day and age, that's what it takes to feel safe at school.

    "Sometimes it can be annoying because it feels like everyone's constantly being watched or questioned. It's kind of enclosed all the time and it makes us feel like, I guess, not really free," said 18-year-old Valeria Ymaz. "But, I honestly feel like it's for the best for the safety of the school."

    In 2001, a school resource officer was the first to respond to a shooting at Granite Hills High School in the Grossmont District. Grossmont now spends $1.2 million a year from its general fund to provide police protection on its nine high school campuses.

    Ymaz said she did feel safer with a police officer stationed on her high school campus.

    "Just because, anything could happen anywhere. It's not just a specific school. It could be anywhere," Ymaz said.

    NBC7 wants to know what you think. Leave us a comment below this article about whether or not you believe a police officer should be stationed at every school campus.