After the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School left 17 people dead, school safety was once again thrust into the national spotlight. Many schools began looking for ways to increase the number of armed officers at public schools. One school system, though, has removed armed police from schools.
As The New York Post reports, “the last NYPD cops assigned full-time to New York City public schools are being moved out — despite nationwide calls for heightened security in the wake of last month’s Florida shootings.”
“The NYPD [is] removing Sgt. Raul Espinet from his post at Francis Lewis HS in Fresh Meadows, Queens — where he had worked for more than a dozen years.”
The move has left many parents and students angry. Why now?
“My colleagues think it’s outrageous — and really stupid,” teacher Arthur Goldstein told the Post. “We’re not enthusiastic about arming teachers, but we liked having a cop around.”
The move comes as New York Mayor de Blasio implements new community policing units. These groups will patrol neighborhoods, and visit schools during those patrols. This means there were no armed guards there when the patrols aren’t present.
New school safety “agents” will be in the schools, but those men and women will not be armed.
This latest removal is just the latest in a long line dating back to the 1990s. During the last three decades, dedicated school safety officers have been phased out, or transferred on. Sgt. Raul Espinet is just the latest.
Bayside High School and Benjamin Cardozo High School had their officers removed recently, too.
“I’m not aware of any other school with a full-time police officer assigned to it,” Lt. John Grimpel, an NYPD spokesman, told the Post.
The parents are now fighting back. A PTA petition circulating argues that “the community officer is in no way an acceptable replacement.”
“It’s ridiculous,” Francis High’s PTA co-president Linda Lovett. “All over the country they are telling you ‘arm the teachers, get an officer in your school.’ New York City had a designated officer and they are actually cutting the program . . . they are making us less secure.
“You are talking about 5,000 people in a one-block radius, and you’re telling me you can’t designate one officer?”
Espinet was a constant presence, both in the hallways and outside the building, according to staffers and students. He made sure doors were locked and busted kids for smoking.
“[Espinet] knew what was happening,” Phyllis Leibowitz, an English teacher and Dean said. “Kids told him things . . . They would give him a heads up, and he would handle it before it happened.”
“It’s not like he was standing there with a gun out,” Lovett added. “He knew everybody. When you get to know everybody, crime goes down.”