UPDATED: Jan. 29, 2015 3:31 p.m.
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WNEW/AP) — A mass school shooting in Maryland is a matter of when, not if, a state lawmaker said as he renewed his proposal to put an armed officer in every public school.
A House committee held a hearing Wednesday on a bill from Delegate John Cluster, a Baltimore County Republican, that would put about 900 trained officers in Maryland schools before the next school year begins.
“I appreciate dollars are tight, but if you’ve ever seen a kid killed, that’s something you never forget,” said Cluster, a retired Baltimore County police officer. “I appreciate in the past the governor has put money aside in the budget for security enhancements: cameras in schools, locks on the doors. Security enhancements might help, but not having somebody on scene is really the problem.”
The proposal would cost the state nearly $100 million this fiscal year and comes at a time when newly elected Republican Gov. Larry Hogan is urging fiscal restraint. This is the third consecutive year that Cluster has tried to increase the number of school-resource officers in the state, and neither previous bill made it out of committee in the Democratic-controlled legislature.
The bill is intended to prevent catastrophes such as the December 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, in which 20 children and six adults were killed. Maryland has more than 1,400 public schools, and Cluster said there are about 600 school- resource officers in the state.
The Maryland Association of Boards of Education said it felt the decision to staff a school with a resource officer should be made at the local level.
Advocacy groups including the ACLU of Maryland and the Maryland Disability Law Center testified against the bill, warning that more officers in schools could lead to increased instances of over-policing and discrimination.
The former president of the Maryland Association of School Resource Officers, Sgt. Mike Rudinski, said in an interview that public safety is only one aspect of a trained resource officer’s job and that schools need officers who understand the campus environment.
“I do much more counseling than law enforcement,” said Rudinski, a resource officer at Northwestern High School in Prince George’s County.
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