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It looks like the outrage over police militarization coming out of Ferguson hasn't reached California just yet.
The news: El Camino College campus police in Torrance, Calif., are packing some extra heat this year as they patrol city schools — with AR-15 semi-automatic rifles.
KPCC reports that police officers who pass a screening will now be allowed to bring the guns along in their patrol cars while on campus, which Compton Unified Police Chief William Wu said is intended to "save lives, bottom line." Wu emphasized FBI data showing some shooters come equipped with body armor and said that the rifles would allow police to target a potential mass shooter from a distance more accurately.
But community members like Compton Democratic Club founder Francisco Orozco told KPCC, "The school police has been very notorious in the community and in reality has never had to shoot anyone before. So this escalation of weapons we feel is very unnecessary."
They have a point. Last year, parents and students sued the Compton Unified School District for an alleged pattern of anti-Latino abuse and racial profiling. The Los Angeles Times reports several allegations, such as this horrible one: "School police targeted a student's father for arrest and deliberately got him deported to Mexico after he filed a complaint against an officer." Other excessive force allegations included an incident where a student videotaping an arrest was beaten and maced, as well as another where a student's mother was nearly struck by a baton.
"The school police has not even earned the right to carry handguns," Orozco told KPCC.
A 2012 report by the Justice Policy Institute claims that placing armed officers on campus doesn't do anything to make students safer, but it does lead to many more student arrests:
"In a study directly concerning SROs, Judge Steven Teske of Clayton County, Georgia, found that with the placement of SROs in schools, the number of referrals directly to the juvenile justice system increased dramatically, from approximately 89 referrals per year in the 1990s to 1,400 per year in 2004. Another study found that even when controlling for school poverty, schools with an SRO had nearly five times the rate of arrests for disorderly conduct as schools without an SRO."
Mass shootings are a dark and growing reality in the U.S., but putting armed police in every school creates many more problems than it would solve. In a separate analysis, the New York Times concluded such policies dramatically increase racial profiling: Alienating students doesn't make them safer.
Why you should care: Compton police are already equipped with handguns, clearly enough firepower to deal with a shooter. Meanwhile, a Police Executive Research Forum report concluded that authorities could best deal with the threat of a mass shooting by improving response times, coordinating with mental health agencies to identify troubled individuals before they turn to violence and training the public on what steps to take during a shooting. Bigger guns are not on the list.
h/t Fox News Latino
Correction: Sept. 3, 2014
An earlier version of this article stated El Camino College is located in Compton, Calif. In fact, it is located in Torrance, Calif. The Compton Unified School District is in a different police district than El Camino Compton Center.