Citing the national school shooting epidemic and potential acts of terrorism, the Compton, California school board has approved a policy allowing select campus police officers to carry semi-automatic AR-15 rifles in their patrol cars while on duty.
The school board approved a policy in July that will allow certain school district officers to buy these rifles and hold them in their cars should a mass shooting or terror attack occur, according to KPCC. The school district will train the chosen officers, who will then carry the firearms in their cars starting next month.
The policy has residents of Compton, located in southern Los Angeles County, concerned over potential use of excessive force in a school district that has, in the past, seen allegations from students of racial profiling by Compton school police officers.
Francisco Orozco, a recent high school graduate in the district and founder of the Compton Democratic Club, told KPCC this preparation for the worst-case scenario obscures day-to-day concerns that exist on local school campuses.
"The school police has been very notorious in the community and in reality has never had to shoot anyone before," said Orozco. "So this escalation of weapons we feel is very unnecessary."
Orozco noted that a lawsuit filed by district parents last year alleged racial profiling by Compton school officers. Students have also recently lodged complaints of excessive force used by school district authorities.
"The school police has not even earned the right to carry handguns," Orozco said.
The Compton School Police Officers Association countered similar pushback on the Compton Democratic Club’s Facebook page, saying that the Compton school district is not alone, as the “Los Angeles School PD, Baldwin Park School PD, Santa Ana School PD, Fontana School PD, San Bernandino School PD” have all authorized school officers “to deploy these weapons.”
“If we encounter an active mass murderer on campus with a rifle or body armor, our officers may not adequately be prepared to stop that suspect,” the group wrote. “School Police Officers will undergo a training course, followed by a shooting proficiency test on a firing range and a written exam. The rifles are designed for increased accuracy and use rifled ammunition than can pierce body armor. The safety of our Students, Staff, and Parents are very important to us.”
Compton Unified Police Chief William Wu told the school board that semi-automatic weapons are needed to counter body armor worn by shooters, which cannot be penetrated by standard firearms.
"This is our objective - save lives, bottom line," Wu told the board, according to KPCC.
"Handguns you'd be lucky to hit accurately at 25 yards," Wu said. "With a rifle in the hands of a trained person, you can be go 50, 100 yards accurately."
According to Fox News Latino, 65 percent of the community is Hispanic, and about 33 percent is African-American.
Use excessive force by police is a much-discussed topic lately, in light of the ongoing civil unrest in Ferguson, Missouri following the police killing of an unarmed teenager.
Writing in response to the controversy, Los Angeles Police Department officer Sunil Dutta was offered a platform by the Washington Post to say if citizens want to avoid police brutality, then they should do what officers say, no matter what.
“[I]f you don’t want to get shot, tased, pepper-sprayed, struck with a baton or thrown to the ground, just do what I tell you,” Dutta wrote. “Don’t argue with me, don’t call me names, don’t tell me that I can’t stop you, don’t say I’m a racist pig, don’t threaten that you’ll sue me and take away my badge. Don’t scream at me that you pay my salary, and don’t even think of aggressively walking towards me. Most field stops are complete in minutes. How difficult is it to cooperate for that long?”
Despite punitive police actions in Ferguson and around the country, and in the face of a nation that incarcerates far more people than all other nations combined, Dutta added:
“Police are legally permitted to use deadly force when they assess a serious threat to their or someone else’s life. Save your anger for later, and channel it appropriately. Do what the officer tells you to and it will end safely for both of you. We have a justice system in which you are presumed innocent; if a cop can do his or her job unmolested, that system can run its course. Later, you can ask for a supervisor, lodge a complaint or contact civil rights organizations if you believe your rights were violated. Feel free to sue the police! Just don’t challenge a cop during a stop.”