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Fontana not the only school district to arm police with rifles

Billy Green, police chief for the Fontana school district. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times

While Fontana school officials are coming under sharp criticism for stocking campuses with semiautomactic rifles during visits by campus police, other districts in California have already deployed similar strategies.

In October, the Fontana Unified School District purchased Colt 6940 model rifles for use in “extreme emergency cases” like the Newtown, Conn., massacre, said Supt. Cali Olsen-Binks.

The rifles, which cost about $1,000 apiece, are kept in safes when officers are on campus.

The Los Angeles Unified School District’s police department has issued “patrol rifles” to officers on an as-needed basis, the district said in a statement. The department did not disclose the number of weapons given to officers.

In the San Diego Unified School District, some officers have purchased their own AR-15 rifles, said Lt. Joe Florentino. The weapons are kept in the trunk of the officer’s vehicle and are not brought into school buildings, but allowing the police to carry the rifles into schools is something the department is looking at, Florentino said.

Fontana Unified School District police Chief Billy Green said the decision to purchase the weapons was not spurred by a specific event.

The rifles are designed to increase shooting accuracy and provide the 14 school officers with more effective power against assailants, particularly those wearing wearing body armor, Green said.

He said the weaponry is necessary for officers to stop a well-armed gunman.

"If you know of a better way to stop someone on campus that's killing children or staff members with a rifle, I'd like to hear it," he said. "I don't think it's best to send my people in to stop them with just handguns."

Board member Leticia Garcia said the police chief and superintendent should have alerted the five-member board and held a public hearing on the issue.

She said arming officers with such weapons is a policy matter and should have been decided by the entire school district community, especially in light of the ongoing debate around the country.

Garcia, whose son attends Fontana High School, said she is working with local state legislators to draft a bill that would keep school police departments from taking these types of weapons onto campuses.

"We're turning our schools into a militarized zone," she said.

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-- Stephen Ceasar

Photo: Billy Green, police chief for the Fontana school district. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times

 
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