Police presence in schools to ensure student safety

Sept. 8, 2003, midnight | By Adedeji Ogunfolu | 18 years, 4 months ago

Twelve Educational Facilities Officers (EFOs) have been hired in six school districts across Montgomery County. The relationship between law enforcement and schools is a new concept, and this experiment is to continue indefinitely.

In a document distributed to blazers during the first week of school, Superintendent Dr. Jerry Weast explains that recent events called for the increased security in schools. "One of the goals of the EFO program is to work together to lessen the impact that an emergency or crisis would have on the school community and facilities."

The US Department of Justice under the Community Oriented Policing Service in school program funds the installment of the EFOs. Twelve officers have been employed by MCPS for this school year. The new initiative will eventually install 32 officers, hiring 20 more officers over the next two years.

According to Edward Clarke, the director of school safety and security of MCPS, many schools around the country have police officers on their school campuses. "For several years police have been assigned on school campuses where one officer was assigned to a particular school, and those officers are called school resource officers," he said. "The difference with this program is that private schools in the clusters will also have police monitoring their campuses."

Officer Ralph Penn, one of the EFOs of the Silver Spring District, has been employed by the County police for 28 years and has an optimistic outlook for the program. "I hope that the County Police and the Board of Education and the citizens of this county will see that this is a real positive piece for these schools, and they'll want to keep it," he said.

Some students do not agree with the presence of officers. In an informal survey conducted of 100 blazers, eighty percent of students do not believe that police officers are necessary at Blair. "Personally, I feel that the police are put here to intimidate the students," said Junior Wangui Kangathca. "I don't think they serve a real purpose except to instill fear."

Each officer is assigned to monitor several schools in their district, but Penn thinks that he will be mostly monitoring Blair. "The first week or two I am trying to focus on getting in the high school to meet and greet and find my way around," he said. "Sometime in the next week or so I'll go down to Eastern Middle School. When the need arises, I'll make visits to the elementary schools.

Kate Harrison, Assistant director of communications, believes that the EFOs and students will develop a beneficial relationship. "The County Government and schools systems wanted to provide a way for law enforcement and students to get to know each other," she says. "These officers volunteered and are very interested in young people."

In addition to tightening security in MCPS, Weast explains in the document the other purposes of the EFOs. "The EFOs will serve as a resource for MCPD prevention and outreach programs for students."

Penn also believes that the police are more suited to handle intense situations since they carry firearms. "The expertise law enforcement has over the security is a couple of notches above what the security guards are capable of at Blair," he says.

Although the police are here to enhance security, Harrison said that it would be ideal that the police did not have to use their firearms. "The use of force would only be used to protect students, but certainly we hope the use of force will not be necessary," she said.

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Adedeji Ogunfolu. Adedeji Ogunfolu is now a senior. Besides working dilligently on the Silver Chips Online staff, he is an extremely enthusiastic musician. He is not ashamed to tell people that he has been to band camp, but he prefers to call it orchestra camp. He has … More »

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