Friday, May 4, 2007

Mayor would support arming campus cops

By Susie Gran, Abq Trib
Friday, May 4, 2007

If Albuquerque Public Schools were to dissolve its police department, the district would have $2.79 million to spend on contracted services. The 2006-07 school police budget includes:

$1.64 million for 51 salaried employees, including 33 certified officers.

$169,000 for secretarial, clerical and hourly employees.

$546,000 for employee benefits.

$77,177 for police chief salary.

$95,000 for supplies and materials.

$33,563 for furniture and equipment.

$15,530 for employee training.

Source: APS

Mayor Martin Chavez is siding with school police in the gunfight at Albuquerque Public Schools.

"Our kids will be better served if APS police are armed" at all times, Chavez said Thursday.

School police have long wanted to carry sidearms during school hours to react more quickly to emergencies. Current school policy requires them to keep their guns locked in their cars until they get the superintendent's permission to retrieve them.

The debate over arming school officers took a turn Wednesday when school officials said they wanted to explore the idea of contracting out police services rather than running their own police department.

The mayor also said he would support a merger of the school police with either the Bernalillo County Sheriff's Department or the Albuquerque Police Department - but not all three.

The school district has 33 certified police officers who could be absorbed by the larger law enforcement agencies, which would then provide services to the schools.

"I'm receptive to it as long as it isn't a multiheaded creature," the mayor said of a possible merger.

Chavez said he recognizes that the school district could enter into a contract with the Sheriff's Department instead of the city.

If that were to occur, the city might pull its officers now assigned to high schools and middle schools, he said.

"That would be an option to look at," he said. "At the end of the day, whatever protects the kids is what we want."

The city currently assigns armed officers to all high schools except Rio Grande, which is located in Bernalillo County. Some of the middle schools also are assigned city police officers.

"If they (APS) ask us to come in, it would make very good sense," Chavez said. "We would be receptive to a request for a merger."

Albuquerque Board of Education member Robert Lucero said he and APS Superintendent Beth Everitt were going to meet with Bernalillo County Sheriff Darren White this morning to discuss the possibility of a contract.

Lucero said he hopes Albuquerque Police Chief Ray Schultz will also join the discussion and help change the focus from guns to an areawide safety plan.

"If truly safety is the issue, a safety plan is the way to go, not a gun plan," said Lucero, who opposes arming school police 24/7.

"We need to decide what would work covering all 130-some schools. That's impossible for our 33 officers," he said.

The only decision made by the school board Thursday was to hold a public hearing and continue the dialogue.

Board members invited the public, students, teachers and grass-roots organizations to a hearing, but no date was set.

Tom s Garduno of the SouthWest Organizing Project also weighed in Thursday with an anti-gun message.

"Arming security guards only perpetuates fear and violence," he said in flyers distributed in the board room.

Board member Gordon Rowe said he thinks the community wants the board to act, not spend months talking and listening.

"They expect us to do something," Rowe said. "We need to get out in front on this."

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