Detroit Schools Bulk up Security

DETROIT -- City police officers are expected to blanket area schools today in response to Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's call for beefed-up security after two separate shootings at or near high schools this week.

Kilpatrick wouldn't say how many officers will join the district's existing security forces at school hot spots or where they'll come from, but he did say it's a short-term solution to the violence seen at the district this week.

"You'll see a stepped-up presence in the schools," Kilpatrick said Wednesday, after meeting with area law enforcement and school officials. "I don't have time for more meetings. Children have to be safe now."

On Monday, two students were shot in the leg by a drive-by assailant as they walked home from Southeastern High School on the city's east side. The next day, a student opened a side door at Central High School to allow a group of people in and one of the outsiders was shot in the arm in the school's vestibule.

Also, a female janitor was stripped of her clothing and robbed Monday at Ronald Brown Academy.

Kilpatrick said a long-term safety solution must be led by the newly elected school board, which takes over for the state-appointed board next month.

Kilpatrick backs a plan from Wayne County Sheriff Warren Evans to take over security for the 130,600-student district. But Interim CEO William Coleman III has said he won't move on the proposal until the new board, which will have authority over such contracts, is seated.

The district has about 40 police officers, who carry guns and have arresting power, and about 300 security officers.

The sheriff's office already handles security in the Highland Park district, with five school officers. The district's share of the cost is $50,000 and other costs are met by grants, school officials said.

Coleman said the long-term solution means finding the cause of the incidents, not just throwing more officers in schools.

"We need a community solution to the violence that is surrounding our schools," Coleman said.

The teachers union wants Evans and his deputies to take over security. Detroit Federation of Teachers President Janna Garrison said the district's security isn't adequate.

"We know there needs to be some changes and improvement," she said.

"We aren't really happy with the idea of gun-toting officers in schools, but we know there are security issues.

"We know (safety) is a constant concern of our teachers. There needs to be more of a feeling of security in schools and it's not there."

But others are skeptical about how Evans' involvement might change things.

"What is he going to do that they aren't doing now?" said grandparent and school activist Sharon Kelso. "Parents should be communicated with. We just need to know what he is going to do to make it safer."

Incoming board member Jonathan Kinloch said safety is a top priority for the board. He wants the district's security force to become an independent public safety department so they have more power and are able to apply for additional grants.

Kilpatrick said he likes Evans' plan because it connects the district with other county resources, such as truancy programs.

"We need to start to deal with security not just from a take-them-down point of view," he said. The additional officers deployed today won't cost the city extra money because they are going to be reallocated from other assignments, said Kilpatrick spokesman Howard Hughey.

Police still were searching for the Central High shooter as of Wednesday afternoon.

In the Southeastern High incident, Jeremy Banks, 18, of Detroit was arraigned Wednesday on nine counts of attempted murder and felony firearm. His bond was set at $500,000.

Before this week, the last shooting in a Detroit school was January 2004, when a 19-year-old man entered Northern High School with a gun and shot a teenager six times in the leg, said Charles Mitchell, the head of security for Detroit Public Schools. The shooter was a student at another Detroit school.

<<The Detroit News -- 12/09/05>>