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December 4, 2023

Guest View: More police does not mean more safety

There was a lot of discourse in September about having police officers at high schools in the area. While there was talk from people like Councilmember Zach Hilton and District Attorney Candidate Sajid Khan about the lack of effectiveness of safety, there was a significant amount of pushback. I also commented on how they do very little for school safety as a whole. People called us crazy.

After the recent shooting in Texas, we look a lot less crazy.

For those uninformed, there was a shooting in a town called Uvalde, Texas in which 19 kids and two teachers were killed along with several others injured. To say the police stood back and did nothing is a severe miscarriage of the truth. They refused to enter the building. They stopped parents from running in the building to protect their kids, but some officers did go into the building to protect their own kids. They threatened to taze the parents. They handcuffed parents in the parking lot in order to stop them from confrontation. They then refused to cooperate with state authorities.

Then they lied. About everything. Continuously.

This is not a town that is lacking funding. In a town of 15,000 people (less than half of Gilroy as a whole), the police were allotted 40 percent of the budget. The school had the necessary precautions. The fencing, the drills, the preparation. It did not make a single difference, because the police were unwilling to put their lives on the line.

While there are significant differences between what the cops would be doing in an active shooter situation like in Uvalde, and what the school resource officers in Gilroy would do, there is a notable point to be made.

While I have full confidence that the Gilroy Police Department would be infinitely more effective than the Uvalde police, the same legal protections that could protect the Uvalde cops (the investigation is still very much ongoing) would also protect the police in Gilroy. If you are curious, Castle Rock v. Gonzales is a good case to look at.

We have established that the police force can be very ineffective in stopping school shootings, and (should no wrongdoing be found) the same legal protections could be used for Gilroy as well. I again ask the question: what is the point of having these police officers?

For a practical look at what an increased presence of “school resource officers” could look like, looking at Florida is a good example. If you recall there was a shooting in Parkland in 2018 where 17 students died. The state immediately increased school resource officers, including making it mandatory for all schools to have an armed school resource officer. There was a study written by University of Florida that echoed three central ideas:

1. More armed police officers do not have an effect on school shootings in the country.

2. Having police officers leads to more criminal disciplinary actions, but doesn’t reduce numbers.

3. The increase in discipline is racially biased against people of color.

The study even says “At the end of the day, all students deserve a safe, supportive, and equitable learning environment. The results of this analysis suggest that the use of law enforcement in schools may be compromising student well-being without increasing the safety of schools. It is important, therefore, for policymakers and educators to actively seek solutions to ensure students are safe from unnecessary exposure to law enforcement and arrest.”

If that is the conclusion arrived after a shooting in which 17 people died, imagine how many other ramifications it could have in our town. We need to look past this contrived idea that more cops means less crime. Instead, let’s reinvest in the mental health of our students and the containment of our firearms.  

Naka Elelleh is a writer from Gilroy. Comments? Please feel free to email [email protected].

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