School police say they need more people Officers claim the force is poorly equipped.

February 27, 1992|By Michael James | Michael James,Staff Writer

About 40 Baltimore school police officers met yesterday to discuss proposed changes in the force, which they say is understaffed and poorly equipped for the dangers in public schools.

Cheryl D. Glenn, president of the City Union of Baltimore which represents the officers, said school Superintendent Walter G. Amprey is being asked to assign at least one officer to each of the city's approximately 180 schools.

"This week's shooting of the officer is the straw that broke the camel's back," said Ms. Glenn, who attended the closed-door meeting. The shooting occurred Monday at the Roland Park Elementary/Middle School, where officer James Kelly, 39, was shot by a student.

"In this day and age, we all realize that kids do bring guns into school, and these officers are in a fearful situation," said Ms. Glenn.

The 102 members of the school police force are recognized as an official police agency and have arrest powers, but they do not carry guns.

Ms. Glenn said the officers wanted to meet with the city union and Mr. Amprey "to let them know that they have critical concerns over safety and health."

Many of the officers requested that the city provide them with nightsticks and bulletproof vests, neither of which is standard equipment now, Ms. Glenn said.

None of the police officers who left the meeting would publicly discuss what was said or their concerns. But Gilbert Kiah, a school police supervisor who did not attend the meeting, said officers have had a "consensus" in recent years that they should be issued protective equipment.

"As far as personnel goes, everyone knows there's a shortage," he said. "Whether that can be dealt with in the current budget crunch, I don't think anybody knows."

Mr. Amprey said he supported the officers' wishes to increase staffing, but he said it would be impossible -- and also not necessary -- to put an officer in each school.

"I don't think we need an officer in some schools," he said.

Mr. Amprey also said he did not support the idea of issuing nightsticks to the officers. "I don't like that at all. I'm not going to agree to anything that could possibly inflict pain to students," he said. "I don't want a police state in the schools."

Bulletproof vests were to be issued to the officers and had been approved by the city, but budget tightening forced a delay in purchasing them, Mr. Amprey said.

Also, the officers asked about getting new and better radio equipment, since their current system of communications was unsatisfactory during the shooting incident Monday, Ms. Glenn said.

Officer Kelly, who is recovering at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center, was the only officer stationed at the Roland Park school Monday. His radio did not transmit on all frequencies during his scuffle with the youth and could have resulted in a delay in getting help to the building, Ms. Glenn said.

"I think the question that is primarily on the officers' minds is, 'How can you effectively patrol some of these schools with just one officer?' " Ms. Glenn said.

School police reported 19 gun incidents in the first four months of the current school year, up from six in the same period last year.

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