Will More Police Make NJ Schools Less Safe?
An increased police presence in and around school buildings in New Jersey is likely to be the norm for the rest of the school year.
Acting New Jersey Attorney General Matt Platkin ordered the beefed up security for all public and private schools after the school massacre in Uvalde, Texas.
In Bergen County, the enhanced security has been expanded to include churches and other houses of worship.
Bergen County Prosecutor Mark Musella announced the deployment of additional police resources "in response to increasing acts of domestic terrorism across the country."
Jason Love, Bergen County Prosecutor's Office Chief of Detectives, said, "Over the summer, the public should expect to see high visibility patrols with officers in tactical gear, including helmets and rifles, and recognize that those officers are not responding to an incident but are there to deter anyone intending to carry out an act of violence."
The extent of the police presence at New Jersey schools varies town-by-town, and not all schools have additional officers inside schools buildings, but an enhanced patrol schedule has been implemented statewide.
Not everyone is happy with the response
A group of social justice organizations in New Jersey is pushing back on the increased police presence in New Jersey Schools, warning against "knee-jerk reactions" to the recent shootings in Buffalo and Texas.
A secure New Jersey is one where all families feel safe – regardless of their immigration status or the color of their skin. It is imperative that New Jersey take action to ensure the safety of students but adding more police to our schools in the wake of this horrific tragedy is not the solution. Increased police presence in schools will lead to more students being introduced to the criminal legal system, especially students of color and students with disabilities. - The New Jersey Institute for Social Justice
The New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, the New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice, the ACLU of New Jersey and the Education Law Center issued a joint statement saying the response could to more harm than good.
Yannick Wood, Director of the Criminal Justice Reform Program at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, cautioned adding more security to schools is not the solution. "We need to focus and act on the causes of these tragedies," Wood said, "Like the availability, on demand, of guns across our country, as well as the lack of access to mental health services."
Education Law Center Executive Director David Sciarra agreed that more police will not make schools safe. "What's needed in schools," Sciarra says, "Is a holistic approach based on research and proven strategies that include sufficient counselors, social workers, and nurses to provide students with a supportive environment."
The ACLU argued more police in schools with predominantly black and brown students could make them feel less safe. "Increased police presence in schools does only one thing," according to Joe Johnson, Policy Counsel at the ACLU, "Subject children and families of Color to multiple traumas and violence, whether by individual actors or institutions plagued with systemic racism."