Public schools

Militarizing Public School Security: Classroom Cops Will Have AR-15s

Without better guns, school cops just aren't prepared for terrorist attacks, mass shootings, meteor strikes, etc.


Wikimedia Commons

When students in the Compton Unified School District in California return to class after summer break is over, they may be surprised to find that the campus police officers are prepared for all-out war. Over the summer, the district's school board authorized the school police to beef up their arsenals by purchasing semi-automatic weapons.

Compton isn't even the first public school district to do so; a dozen others have instructed the cops to buy SWAT-style weaponry, according to ABC-7:

"I was extremely opposed to the police officers having rifles; however, the statistics are chilling," said Satra Zurita, Compton Unified School District Board member.

The Compton School Board's approval of the AR-15 for school police in July was unanimous. They are not alone. LAUSD tells Eyewitness News they have comparable weapons. So do Fontana School Police. The numbers are growing.

What were those statistics? School Police Chief William Wu explained to district officials that some mass shooters wear body armor (a whopping 5 percent!), and cops have to get within 25 yards of their target to take anyone down with mere handguns. Therefore, they need AR-15s. Without better guns, school cops just aren't prepared for terrorist attacks, mass shootings, meteor strikes, etc.

Never mind, of course, that despite random fluctuations from year to year, mass shootings are not becoming more frequent or more deadly, and schools are among the safest places for kids, all things considered. It would seem to me, then, that Compton is preparing for an exceedingly unlikely worst case scenario.

Is there any harm in being prepared, anyway? Some members of the school community certainly seem to think so, according to 89.3 KPCC (emphasis mine):

But some community members are upset about the policy, questioning the utility of having such high-powered firearms in the hands of school police officers.

"The school police has been very notorious in the community and in reality has never had to shoot anyone before," said Francisco Orozco, a recent Dominguez High School graduate and founder of the Compton Democratic Club. "So this escalation of weapons we feel is very unnecessary."

Orozco said the police could better focus on day-to-day security concerns on campus, rather than arming themselves for a worst-case scenario. He also pointed to a lawsuit filed last year by parents in the district, alleging racial profiling by Compton school police officers — as well as recent allegations by students of excessive force — as evidence of a rift between the department and the community.

"The school police has not even earned the right to carry handguns," Orozco said.

As the recent events in Ferguson have made clear, a more militarized police force damages the relationship between the cops and the community. If the people already don't trust the cops, arming them to high heaven certainly won't help matters.

Wu defended the new weapons policy as an "effective tool" to confront threats to students' lives:

It is a worst-case scenario, and SWAT teams train for it: an active shooter storming a school, a gunman armed with high-power weapons and wearing body armor.

"Seeing in the North Hollywood shootings when they were wearing the soft body armor, bullets were hitting them but having no effect in slowing them down," said Wu.

And it can take time for a fully equipped SWAT team to get to a school.

"Any extra 30 seconds, one minute, two minutes that we can't stop the threat exposes our kids to more unreasonable danger," said Wu.

District policy will require the cops to store their new weapons in their vehicles, however, so in the event of a shooting, the officers would still have to take a few minutes to retrieve the rifles.

If such new security measures are actually necessary, Wu hasn't made a very strong case. Just because something bad could happen—even though it's astronomically unlikely—is not reason enough.

In any case, those who oppose the creeping militarization of the police certainly have their work cut out for them, if even security officers in extremely safe school environments are geared for battle.

NEXT: New Video of Assault by Cop Who Police Tried to Arrest But Prosecutor Said Tape Evidence Was "Too Complicated"

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. I’ll save someone trouble:
    “Beef up with semi-automatic weapons? The cops already have semi-automatic weapons (unless they’re carrying revolvers!) Damned ignorant journalists. Splutter splutter!”

    1. Damnit, I was going to say that.

      Should’ve read as “Cops beef up with high-powered rifles.”

      1. AR15s are not high powered. .223 is a varmit rounds. Wouldn’t even be powerful enough to legally hunt whitetails in most if not all states.

        1. It’s still considered a “high powered rifle,” because it’s a centerfire cartridge. A low powered rifle would be any rimfire round.

          1. Bullshit. A .22 Hornet is a centerfire cartridge, and is hardly considered a “high powered rifle”. 5.56/.223 is an INTERMEDIATE cartridge, regardless of ignorance and media hype.

          2. Tomato tomoto but I would never use high-powered to describe a .223.

            1. Bottom line, it’s a helluva lot more powerful than a pistol.

              And WAY too much for telling kids to get back to class.

    2. Dammit, now I have nothing to post about.

  2. School shootings do happen and making schools places where lunatics are virtually guaranteed to find unarmed victims is a bad idea. So, I don’t have a problem with there being armed guards at schools.

    The public schools of course manage to fuck up even the most sensible ideas. First, these assholes will no doubt use these weapons to threaten students and will throw them down and run if they are ever confronted with an actual threat. Second, there is no need for going to the expense of buying an AR 15. A decent quality handgun would provide all of the deterrence to aspiring lunatics needed.

    1. If The AR is locked in the cops’ cars, I don’t think the cops will be threatening students with them.

      Students breaking windows and helping themselves to the goodness therein OTOH….

      1. Yeah, that was a thought of mine, too. Why even bother buying a gun when you can just smash a cop car window and have an AR-15 + all the ammo you could ever want to shoot up a school?

        It’s like they -want- kids to shoot up schools.

        1. I’m sure it will be kept in the trunk.

          1. Please. You know there’s gonna be one fat fuck that’s too lazy to carry an AR-15 around all day.

      2. You really think the cops are going to follow policy? What happens if they don’t? Exactly.

      3. What sarcasmic said. If you think they are going to follow policy and won’t have these things out playing with them, I have a union funded bridge to sell you.

    2. A decent quality handgun would provide all of the deterrence to aspiring lunatics needed.

      A little 1911 goes a -long- ways.

      1. Or, if it’s really body armor that they’re concerned about, an FN 5.7.

        1. Thought that with disproven?

          1. well they’re law enforcement (“special”), so they can get the right rounds.

  3. District policy will require the cops to store their new weapons in their vehicles, however, so in the event of a shooting, the officers would still have to take a few minutes to retrieve the rifles.

    Lol! You mean the cop will run out, retrieve the rifle, and then stay someplace safe until the shooting stops and/or the cavalry arrives. If the rifles are to be used for anything, it will be to intimidate or club mouthy students.

    1. retrieve the rifle, and then stay someplace safe until the shooting stops and/or the cavalry arrives.

      To be fair, that’s my first reaction too.

    2. I’m sure it’s harder to cower with that big rifle in the way

  4. Will they have camo fatigues and ski masks, like the REAL banana republic death squads? Otherwise those Compton kids will mock them.

  5. In 1996, I played an away football game at Centennial High School in Compton. Their police department was on crack. We had a police motorcade all the way from the freeway exit to the school.

    Knowing nothing about how dangerous motorcades were, I though it was pretty cool. Looking back, it was fucking insane. And they did it for every single home game at that high school.

    Side note: We were heavily favored, and we lost at the last second. A near riot broke out. After we boarded the bus, the School police started proning out students and holding them at gunpoint if they got too close to our bus.

    That was the first time I really started to question the public school system.

  6. Also, Compton isn’t even that bad of a neighborhood anymore. I took my kid there for BBQ (Bludsoe’s) last Saturday.

    All of the really bad neighborhoods are further east now. San Bernardino, for one.

  7. I don’t have a problem with there being armed guards at schools.

    Bonus: if those kids are stealing pencils and paper, the cops can gun them down.

  8. It’s for the Chilruns!

  9. Are we supposed to mock preppers or are we supposed to have them run the school system?

    1. Just be a liberal and you can have it both ways!

  10. Didn’t someone post a story the other day about a police officer who accidentally killed his partner when they separated in an apartment and unexpectedly doubled back on one another? Both were wearing body armor, but the round (guessing 9mm) went right through.

    I don’t know much about body armor, but I’ve seen way too many stories of police getting killed while wearing what’s presumably the best gear available, and not just from shotguns or rifles, to put much faith in its ability.

    1. Just for god’s sake don’t put those cops into round classrooms.

      1. or… please do?

    2. Body armor merely disperses the impact of a bullet; getting hit point-blank with a 9mm probably still transfers enough force to break your ribs and cause serious internal injury, without even penetrating your skin.

    3. It’s very common to cover the face with your arms when being shot at. And shots to the underarms are almost always fatal, body armor or not.

      1. It’s very common to cover the face with your arms when being shot at.

        I really don’t ever want to be put in the “getting shot at” situation so often that I start recognizing patterns about my reaction.

    4. I suspect they didn’t have the shoulder, throat, side and front add-ons that you might see a soldier in… the vest would only cover part of center mass.

    5. Typical body armor consists of two 10″x12″ bullet resistant panels, one front and one back, covering center-mass. There’s lots of important stuff that’s not covered.

    6. The shot in that case went through a gap in the armor panels according to this news story (which also mentions a study that showed someone not wearing a vest in shooting was 14 times more likely to die than someone with a vest):…..source=pkg

  11. Just like the school metal detectors and warrentless locker and body searches; this has nothing to do with safety. It’s just another step towards indoctrination to accept a police state. You grow up with no rights, metal detectors, and cops dressed like infantry all around you.

    1. That would be my guess – the cops aren’t there to guard the children against outside threats. Next step will be surrounding the schools with electrified fences topped with razor wire – but if you look closely you’ll notice the razor wire is angled inward and not outward.

    2. ding ding. give this AlmightJB a prize. Seriously. I do not want commando pigs at my kids school! They are already trying to make them into sheep.

  12. I’m just imagining the scenario where they find out that some kid has week in his locker. Will the Donut Brigade raid a classroom in SWAT gear?

    Warning: don’t bring your dog to school.

  13. I suspect they didn’t have the shoulder, throat, side and front add-ons

    Head shot, FTW!

    1. Aim High!

  14. Is there a straight line of sight in a school that is longer than 75 yards? Is the school located in an old shopping mall?

    1. 25 yards, but your point still stands. It’s extremely implausible at the vast majority of schools that you’ll be able to engage targets at distances of more than 10 to 20 yards except for either shooting straight down a main hall or firing across the parking lot/playground/ball field/etc., and the latter seems like a really unlikely place to engage a school shooter unless you either knew he was coming or are firing at him as he runs away from the scene.

      1. To be fair, a lot of California Schools are open air, outside the classroom.

        My highschool had 300+m views in some areas, and 100m in many more.

  15. New York City police statistics show that simply hitting a target, let alone hitting it in a specific spot, is a difficult challenge. In 2006, in cases where police officers intentionally fired a gun at a person, they discharged 364 bullets and hit their target 103 times, for a hit rate of 28.3 percent, according to the department’s Firearms Discharge Report. The police shot and killed 13 people last year.

    In 2005, officers fired 472 times in the same circumstances, hitting their mark 82 times, for a 17.4 percent hit rate. They shot and killed nine people that year.

    In all shootings ? including those against people, animals and in suicides and other situations ? New York City officers achieved a 34 percent accuracy rate (182 out of 540), and a 43 percent accuracy rate when the target ranged from zero to six feet away. Nearly half the shots they fired last year were within that distance. In Los Angeles, where there are far fewer shots discharged, the police fired 67 times in 2006 and had 27 hits, a 40 percent hit rate, which, while better than New York’s, still shows that they miss targets more often they hit them.

    Even the best-trained police departments average a less than 50% hit rate for shots fired. Naturally, the solution is to give them more powerful weapons, capable of penetrating multiple classrooms.

    1. There were some old statistics on soldiers that fit with this as well.

      In a fire-fight, most of your casualties are provided by only small percentage of your shooters. These are the guys who remain calm, aim, and shoot. Also known as ‘killers’. A significant number of others are in the spray and pray mode, shooting in a general direction. A third group freezes up and doesn’t fire their weapon.

    2. Don’t worry. No matter how many deaths are the result of piggy missed shots you want hear about it.

  16. On the up side, maybe kids won’t grow up to wet their pants every time they see a modern sporting rifle, making it less likely that the citizenry will be stripped of theirs, once voters come of age.

    This article reminds me of something you’d find on HuffPo or Salon. Libertarians should know better than perpetuate common anti-gun myths like scary black rifles are only good for war, while still be able to balance the obvious authoritarian implications.

    Ultimately the .223/5.56×45 round (which these rifles most commonly shoot) might have a higher muzzle velocity, but also much less kinetic energy than for instance a 9mm hand gun bullet. This gives it some desirable characteristics when used indoors, which is why SWAT teams use these weapons over hand guns or shotguns in exactly the type of environments that someone defending a school would find themselves in.

    Specifically the low kinetic energy combined with a small caliber bullet makes it much less likely to penetrate multiple walls and still carry enough energy to accidentally kill a kid in the next class room.

    This is why an AR-15 is ideal for home protection (especially if you live in an apartment), or any other situation where you cannot tightly control what’s beyond your intended target.

    1. You’re half right. Due to its much higher muzzle velocity, a .223 has about four times the kinetic energy of a 9mm. It also has about 50% more momentum. The characteristics of the bullet, however, lead to it dumping that energy in about 40% of the distance required by a 9mm when it strikes a barrier or a soft target, significantly reducing overpenetration.

      1. Didn’t see comments below until just now.


        1. You’re right, I wrongfully assumed it was due to kinetic energy.

    2. 5.56×45 has about three-times the kinetic energy as a 9mm. Penetration depends entirely on the type of projectile used. A light, fast varmint bullet (like a 45 grain) will break up and lose energy quickly, whereas a heavy, slower bonded hunting bullet made for penetration (like an 80 grain) will go through many layers of drywall. If you think the average cop or person knows the difference and loads accordingly, you’re mistaken.

  17. Where are they getting the money to purchase these weapons?

    Is it coming from the school district budget, or is there another federal fund for it?

  18. Ultimately the .223/5.56×45 round (which these rifles most commonly shoot) might have a higher muzzle velocity, but also much less kinetic energy than for instance a 9mm hand gun bullet.

    This is false. A 5.56 has about 3 times the KE (~1600 J) of a 9mm (~550 J). A .44 Magnum +P+ barely touches the lower ranges of an average 5.56 round.

    Rifles way outperform pistols in ballistics

    1. Bobarian: Sorry, my bad, I was assuming results I’ve seen came down to kinetic energy. You’re right, it’s not a factor.

      However, SWAT teams do use this round because over penetration is a real world issue with most handgun calibers and lethal shotgun rounds. Even pistol hollow points tend to plug up in dry-wall and continue, while .223/5.56 HP break up or tumble.…..enetratio/

      “Despite the popularity of the round, too few realize that 9mm ball ammo can easily punch through not just one but several interior walls. By contrast, .223 rifle ammunition tends to tumble, turn and slow down when penetrating barriers, even more than a 9mm fired from some pistols. Many shooters like to debate this point, and admittedly on the surface it doesn’t seem logical, but studies done by SWAT teams over a decade ago revealed this phenomenon to be fact and it was one of the main reasons a lot of tactical teams transitioned to M-4s/AR-15s and gave up the H&K MP-5 SMG in the 80s and 90s.”

      So 5.56×45 seems to still be the obvious choice if you want to minimize accidental casualties within buildings. Regardless of kinetic energy, I suppose.

  19. FFS… my 80’s HS was in the ghetto and the security guards didn’t have ANY weapons. There were no random locker searches or metal detectors. Oh and the crime rate was a fuckton higher than it is now. So now my generation is beginning to run things and this pants-shitting police state is the result? Infuriating.

  20. Boy, they sure get a lot of mileage out of that North Hollywood Shootout don’t they? Anytime someone suggests that your average mall cop might not need the APC with a mounted .50-cal the immediate response is “Well, I see you’ve forgotten all about the North Hollywood Shootout haven’t you?”

    1. ^^ This.

      A buddy’s response to an article I posted yesterday about the overmilitarization of police:

      There was a time when all police needed was a billy club or a six shot revolver. The realization came that those times had changed though back in the 90s when two guys in LA armed with AK-47s and wearing body armor robbed a bank and then proceeded to wound or kill a number of police.

      These days it’s not just bank robbers that they have to worry about. It’s drug dealers and terrorists as well.

  21. I prefer discrete security for schools like what they have in Utah. CCW permit holders can carry concealed in school. A would be mass shooter doesn’t know who is armed that way. School resource officers (police) have a place, probably in high school. As is pointed out in the article they are extremely unlikely to deal with a mass shooter so the posture shouldn’t be overly aggressive. That said AR-15’s are very effective weapons and the 5.56/.223 round performs very well and it can be argued is better at not over penetrating.

    Given that the officer is quite likely to deal with fist fights and other close quarter conflict I don’t see carrying the rifle as wise. I’d support a handgun and less than lethal weapons (tasters) on his person and a rifle locked away nearby. (Car is proposed here.)

    This isn’t militarization though- not quite- it is more about attitude teach the officers to get to know the kids, be approachable be problem solvers first. Given that I support them having access to a AR in the 1 in a million case it might make all the difference.

  22. Cmon, Soave, this is supposed to be Reason. Are you really pushing the “scary black gun” angle? I’m far less worried about guns (of any type) in schools than I am about cops in schools.

  23. Another strong reason for using the AR-15 is that the bullets will not penetrate walls nearly as much as a 9mm. LASD is starting to deploy AR-15 as the preferred weapon inside buildings, for just that reason.

    1. This is not obviously wrong.

      1. Unless they use the steel core penetrators.

  24. What better way to get kids used to the surveillance state than having security cameras in every class, hallway, and bus? And what better way to have them get used to a militarized police force than arming school police with long guns?

  25. Why are there cops in the schools? LAUSD has a police force bigger than most cities, and police cars for most of them.

  26. What is the over/under on the first kid killed for mouthing off at a teacher, staffer, or school cop? You know that these guys are itching to off somebody!

  27. What high school interior has a 25 yard field of fire? Are they planning to sit outside drinking coffee until the perp walks out?

    If these are really going to be locked in car trunks then this is all much ado about nothing.

    No cop will ever be much help or hindrance while he is outside in the parking lot.

  28. Just more proof that we need to get rid of public education so dumbass school boards can’t make idiotic decisions like this. Tuition vouchers and private schools. It gets rid of teacher unions too.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.