By Mark Hallum
The NYPD reinstated officers at three northeast Queens high schools after parents voiced concerns over the safety of their children in the wake of the Parkland, Fla., shooting that left 17 people dead on Feb. 14.
Francis Lewis High School’s PTA co-president, Linda Lovett, said with a student body the size of the Fresh Meadows school, there is too high a risk leaving the campus undefended by a regular police officer.
Lovett set up an online petition to bring back the officer assigned to the school which gathered over 1,200 signatures.
“Francis Lewis High School has had an armed police officer for over 13 years,” Lovett said of Officer Raul Espinet, who was recently moved from the school. “New York City has recently decided to remove this officer from our school, which has over 4,450 students. With our school community being over 5,000, we need him back! The federal government and local communities are suggesting that schools arm their teachers and hire private armed security to keep the kids safe. Yet NYC is taking away security from the largest public school.”
According to the New York Post, cops were reinstated March 19 after a brief period of absence to not only Francis Lewis, but also Benjamin Cardozo and Bayside high schools as community policing was set to launch when parents voiced concern at a PTA meeting at Francis Lewis High School.
NYPD’s initial plan was to discontinue assigning officers to schools by April 1 with the advent of Neighborhood Policing, according to the Post.
The Neighborhood Policing initiative is a relatively new program from NYPD designed to cultivate a familiar relationship between officers and the communities they serve.
As part of the program, three Neighborhood Coordination Officers will oversee smaller sectors within the precinct and two subordinate officers will function as the “eyes on the street,” according to the 111th Precinct’s new commanding officer, Capt. John Hall.
Residents will be able to call, text or email these officers about neighborhood problems, since the 111th Precinct and others like it cover a large swath of the city.
111th Community Council President Jack Fried said he was in favor of having a police officer in schools to prevent mass shootings as opposed to other solutions floated to curb the rash of violent outbreaks across the country.
Armed security guards and pistol-packing teachers are no substitute for a professional NYPD officer who has been trained to deal with threats while minimizing the chances of harming bystanders, according to Fried.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall