While schools across America arm up to protect against mass shootings, New York City is arming down.
Parents at a New York high protested following the removal of a NYPD policeman believed to have been the last remaining armed school resource officer in the city–part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s move to replace gun-carrying law enforcement with unarmed security personnel, the New York Post reports.
Sgt. Raul Espinet, 50, had worked at Francis Lewis HS in Fresh Meadows, Queens for more than 12 years before being reassigned to an NYPD united that evaluates recruits.
Espinet’s departure was the culmination of a years’ long phasing-out of resource officers at schools, which de Blasio has propelled in his response to last month’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., in which 17 people were killed.
Under the mayor’s plan, schools will be visited by new community policing units. Every campus will be guarded by “school safety agents”–who are notably unarmed.
“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.”
Francis Lewis, which has a student body of over 4,400, is one of the city’s biggest schools and among the last ones to have had a full-time NYPD officer onsite.
As the Post has previously reported, de Blasio said stationing officers at each of the city’s 1,400 schools would be impractical and cost $1.2 billion.
Francis Lewis is on high alert after an online threat last month. The PTA immediately launched a petition calling on the NYPD and city Department of Education to assign an officer to the school.
“The community officer is in no way an acceptable replacement,” the petition read.
PTA co-president Linda Lovett said the petition amassed over 1,000 signatures in just two days.
Lovett called de Blasio’s new policy “ridiculous,” and argued:
“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?”
Students also spoke out on the issue.
“There are school shootings everywhere, and they took the one armed officer away from a school with 4,000 kids in it,” sophomore Josephine Li said. “Who is there to protect [us]?”
Others spoke highly of the impact Espinet specifically had on the school.
“He was as much of a social worker as a police officer” social studies teacher Al Lahood recalled. “He was part of the school community. Without him . . . there’s a vacuum, a piece that’s missing.”
Staten Island City Councilmen Steven Matteo urged the city to undo the change.
“I hope the NYPD and the administration listens to parents and students in the Fresh Meadows community and allows this officer to stay where he has obviously had such a positive impact.”