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Chief of Fontana school police explains purchase of rifles

January 30, 2013 |  6:37 pm

In an effort to give parents "accurate information" about the Fontana Unified School District's recent purchase of semiautomatic rifles, the district police chief sent a letter to parents Wednesday in English and Spanish. (Letters can be seen here and in Spanish here.)

Chief Billy Green told The Times that recent media coverage surrounding the purchase of law enforcement rifles has generated many questions for parents and community members and that he wanted to ensure "they got all the information possible."

The rifles, which cost about $1,000 each, are made by Colt specifically for law enforcement, Green said.

The weapons will be kept in safes when the school police are on campus. The guns "are needed to provide the officers with the tools necessary to respond to a school site in the event of an active shooter or other situation which greatly jeopardizes the safety of children and staff," Green wrote in the letter.

He and his staff have attended parent and community meetings to address concerns about the weapons and children's safety -- concerns that, he says, are understandable -- "but once the groups are provided with the accurate information, they have all been supportive."

In his letter, the chief said that the money spent on the rifles -- about $14,000 total from the police budget -- could not be used to reinstate the school counselor program. He said the money spent on the weapons "would not come close to paying the salary for even one school counselor."

In closing, Green said it's unfortunate that the police must develop plans "for such ugly and unspeakable events." Further, he said: "It is our hope that these tools are never needed, but those of us tasked with emergency planning would be irresponsible and derelict if we ignored the possibility."

A school board member, Leticia Garcia, objected to the purchase of the guns, saying that a public hearing on the matter should have been held. The five-member board did not approve the weapons because the amount fell below the threshold required for consideration.

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--Dalina Castellanos

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