Pennsylvania ACLU: Police Officers Should Be Disarmed Because Guns Send ‘Negative Message’ To Students

ACLU's backwards (get it?) thinking says armed officers make schools less safe.

ACLU’s backwards (get it?) thinking says armed officers make schools less safe.

Police In Pittsburgh Schools Need To Be Armed, ACLU Disagrees

Pittsburgh, PA –  In a March 24 editorial, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette called for police officers who are employed by Pittsburgh Public schools to begin carrying guns.

In response, on April 4, the ACLU of Pennsylvania called for the officers to remain unarmed, according to The Blaze.

Harold Jordan, senior policy advocate of the ACLU of Pennsylvania, said that having guns in schools sends a ‘negative’ message to students.  He said that it makes them feel like suspects, and that arming police officers does not make schools safer.

Jordan wrote, “Having an armed officer stationed in schools has neither prevented nor stopped ‘active shooter’ incidents.’ In traditional ACLU fashion, they are twisting the facts to fit their narrative.

This led us to ask: Has a school resource officer ever stopped an active shooter? The answer is yes.

Jordan may be able to claim his statement is accurate in that, as far as I know a school resource officer has not shot an active shooter who was armed with a firearm. However, looking at a history of active shooters and potential active shooters, armed school resource officers have indeed stopped the killers:

  • In 2013, at the Arapahoe High School shooting, Karl Pierson entered school with a shotgun, machete, and three Molotov cocktails. His 80-second violent rampage was quickly ended when she shot himself after being confronted by an armed school resource officer.
  • In 2014 at Troutdale High School, Jared Padgett entered his school with an AR-15 and nine loaded magazines. His attack was ended when he shot himself in the middle of a gunfight with the armed school resource officers.
  • In 2016, a Mountain View High student brought 5 knives to school and started stabbing other students. When cornered by an armed school resource officer, he stabbed himself and was taken into custody. Even though the student was armed with a knife, this fit the definition of an “active shooter” event.
  • At the University level, in 2016 and armed Ohio State University Officer, Alan Horujko, stopped an active shooter (with a knife) during a terrorist attack on campus.
  • The school resource officer response at Columbine definitely favors the idea of school resource officers, but a breakdown of that incident would require a much longer article.

Harold Jordan also suggested reducing the need for police presence in schools.  Jordan said “Emerging best practices aim to reduce police involvement in routine disciplinary school matters, ensure fairness in disciplinary processes, and increase the ratio of counselors and student support services to cops.” These “best practices” are actually no more than a political agenda to remove police officers from schools.

Jordan’s argument is also that school police would be quicker to use their weapons, which is not supported by any evidence or statistics from the thousands of armed police officers assigned to schools in the United States.

If he would bother to look at actual statistics, he would see that use of force by school resource officers is actually much lower than that of patrol officers (EDITOR’S NOTE: This statement is based off experience working in schools and patrol. We’re not digging making hundreds of records requests and digging through data to prove one fool wrong.) Jordan’s claim was also refuted by the March 24 editorial, which said that school police officers may be better than city police officers at de-escalating force.

The March 24 editorial noted that these officers have the same training and arrest powers as officers in city departments.  Pittsburgh city schools employ 57 school security aides, who have limited authority, and 23 sworn police officers, including a chief and assistant chief

The security aides don’t have police-level training and should not be armed.

At least one officer is assigned to each of the city’s high schools, with the other officers mobile and able to travel to wherever they are needed.

These officers are unarmed even though they work in environments where weapons are often found, where violence may break out, and where the threat of outside violence either targeted at the school or spilling over from the street may occur.

The Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers (PFT) has pointed out the absurdity of the idea of police officers not being armed. They said that the district gives officers bulletproof vests, an acknowledgement of the danger that they face, and note that armed Pittsburgh Police Officers often provide security at events.

Sometimes the school police officers must call Pittsburgh police officers for assistance, which means armed and unarmed officers are working side by side.  They are also supposed to stop and help in any crime in progress that they may observe while driving to and from a school.

The PFT passed a resolution two years for school police officers to be armed, and brought it up again last year with a letter to all school board members.  There was no response.

It is unbelievably unsafe to have a trained and sworn police officer in a school without arming him.  It make them a target, and unable to properly respond in the case of an active shooter.

Do you think that school resource officers should be armed? We’d like to hear what you think. Please let us know in the comments.