Albuquerque Considers Arming Officers in Schools

The Albuquerque school board will reconsider its policy that prohibits school police from carrying guns during school hours, board members said Thursday.

"I think we have a duty," said Martin Esquivel. Mayor Martin Chávez will work with the district to provide additional security, said Paul Broome, the mayor's education adviser.

Chávez supports arming school police, Broome said, but he'll help the district whether the board changes the policy or not. Several options are on the table.

"He recognizes it's a very agonizing decision," Broome said during the board's policy committee meeting.

The school board began discussing the issue again after the recent shootings at Virginia Tech. It has come before the board twice, the last time in 2001 after much public debate.

At that time, some APS officers were allowed to carry guns but not during school hours unless given permission by the superintendent.

Board members on Thursday also talked about contracting with Albuquerque police and the Bernalillo County Sheriff's Department to provide school security.

There are 70 APS police officers, and 33 are certified to carry guns, school officials told the board. At least one city or county police officer is also assigned to all the city's high schools.

That's not enough to serve the entire district, said Robert Lucero. But he said he doesn't think arming more APS officers is the solution.

"Should we not look at a better safety plan than we have today?" Lucero said. "We need to have a true study and look at all the options."

Lucero said he's waiting to see if a pending report from the Council of the Great City Schools, an advisory group for public schools, offers any recommendations about contracting with local law enforcement agencies.

Parents and community members on both sides of the issue will have a chance to tell the board what they think about arming school police officers, although no date was set.

Board members also want school officials to give them detailed recommendations for what they think should be done to improve school security as soon as possible.

"I think the community is expecting us to act quickly," said Gordon Rowe. "They do want us to show leadership."

Board member Dolores Griego said crime prevention shouldn't be overlooked in the discussion.

"How can we reinstill values, reinstill respect?" Griego said. "We can't keep going in the direction we're going."