Philadelphia Mayor Decides against Arming School Cops

Of 10 largest U.S. cities, Philly is only city not to arm officers


Vallas had proposed that two officers be placed on the grounds and the front doors of the city's most troubled high schools. His pitch called for the city to pay the officers' salaries and benefits for three years through the U.S. Justice Department's Community Oriented Policing Services program.

Nationally, the COPS program has provided more than $700 million to hire and train 6,300 "school resource officers" since 1998, according to a program spokesman.

The overall number of officers in schools nationally is about 15,000, according to Curtis Lavarello, executive director of the National Association of School Resource Officers.

In response to a Daily News article this spring in which Street expressed his opposition to armed cops in schools, Lavarello wrote Street saying: Placing officers in schools "does not suggest your schools are unsafe, yet if we had a city or town with little or no crime, would you remove the police officers? Of course not, thus your actions and statements lack logic."

Still, even with officers in schools, danger still lurks, according to a survey released last year by the National Association of School Resource Officers.

Among the key findings in the survey answered by 728 officers were:

More than 90 percent believe schools are soft targets for terrorist attacks.

More than 70 percent that aggressive behavior in elementary schoolchildren has increased in the past five years.

More than 55 percent said their school-crisis plans were inadequate.

Jerry Jordan, vice president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, said the pros outweigh the cons in having armed officers in schools.

"Our position is that we favor police officers in schools, not just in front of schools, but in schools," Jordan said.

He recalled that when he was a teacher at University City High School in the early 1980s, there were two city officers in each comprehensive high school.

"The officers were like part of the faculty. They were part of the school community," he said. "If we really believe schools have to be a safe haven for kids, we have to do everything that we possibly can to have police officers on hand to hear from the young people and to serve as advisers. That's a good thing."