Cops who patrol Boston public schools want permission to carry pepper spray while on duty, insisting they need protection from violence on campuses.
Because they are not allowed to carry firearms or pepper spray, they say they are unable to defend themselves from rebellious students and trespassers, leading to injuries and time lost from work, according to The Boston Globe.
Sgt. Kirk Harrison, who work in a Boston school told the Globe nearly half-dozen officers currently cannot go to work because of injuries. One in particular, he remembers, even needed shoulder surgery after a spat with a student.
“We deal with anything from just regular calls for breach of the peace, to talking to a student, to kids with firearms,” Harrison said. “It could happen any day and every day.”
Harrison, who is the president of the union which reps superiors officers, said the officers have reached out to an arbitrator appealing the decision the former school superintendent made last year of allowing these officers to carry pepper spray on school property.
Boston’s School Department says there are currently 19 superior officers and 55 patrol officers who are on duty full time in 43 of the district’s 125 schools. This league has a whopping $4.2 million budget.
These officers, licensed by the Boston Police Department, are technically employees of the School Department and are allowed to carry handcuffs and radios. Depending on the school and its ranking, some officers are allowed to carry guns, batons and mace.
Cops who monitor Boston’s school say they confiscate one to three guns and nearly 400 other weapons a year. Included in that list are knives and pellet guns. Since school re-opened in September, school officers have sequestered one gun at TechBoston Academy (a cop was injured in the head while seizing the weapon), and 110 other firearms.
The Globe found that arrests in Boston’s public schools have plummeted from 464 in the 2007-08 school year to 232 in the 2010-11 school year and down to 177 in 2014. From 2013-14 there were 152 arrests and this year only 50.
Yet the school’s patrol officer’s stand their ground claiming that happens in the streets is bound to happen inside of school grounds.
“Anything that… happens in the streets always finds its ways into schools,” Officer Steven M. Wilson Jr., told The Globe.
Some school officers have informally began carrying pepper spray and continued doing so until last November, when Interim Superintendent John McDonough said carrying pepper spray could “drive a wedge between our students and the school police.”
Current superintendent, Tommy Chang, has been ambiguous about his thoughts on developing a policy allowing cops on school property to carry pepper spray. Meanwhile Mayor Martin J. Walsh said in a statement pepper spray is not needed because officers are allegedly equipped “with active-shooter ‘safe-drill’ training, as well relationship-building skills and de-escalation strategies.”
“The safety of our students is our top priority,” Walsh added.