Hartford, Connecticut- A school shooting in Santa Clarita, California took the lives of two students and injured several others Thursday November 14th. But it could have been much worse.
Three off-duty police officers that were on the scene dropping off their own children, didn’t think twice before running into the chaos.
Response time was within 16 seconds. These officers are credited with saving lives for immediately rendering first aid to students that had been shot. They are heroes.
After the tragic #SaugusShooting, we mourn for those lost today & pray for those in the #SantaClarita community; whose scars won't soon heal. I've already seen hope, and strength through the tears of the survivors, who will hold their loved ones tighter tonight. #saugusstrong pic.twitter.com/LBKjMX9TWF
— Sergeant Benjamin (@LASDBen) November 14, 2019
But in Connecticut, those off-duty officers would be considered criminals. In accordance with Connecticut general statute Sec. 53a-217b, Possession of a weapon on school ground is considered a Class D felony.
And yes, this law applies to Connecticut’s Law Enforcement officers.
If the off-duty officers had a firearm on their person, and entered school grounds to assist in this type of incident, they could potentially be charged with a class D felony.
The statute in part reads; (a) A person is guilty of possession of a weapon on school grounds when, knowing that such person is not licensed or privileged to do so, such person possesses a firearm or deadly weapon, as defined in section 53a-3, (1) in or on the real property comprising a public or private elementary or secondary school, or (2) at a school-sponsored activity as defined in subsection (h) of section 10-233a.
Now many will say, who would actually prosecute officers for helping victims of a mass casualty event? Maybe they never would be. But that’s not the point. The real point is, why aren’t law enforcement officers allowed to carry a firearm that they are trained to use?
Especially in a state that has already witnessed a horrific school shooting, why are we not allowing off-duty officers to carry on school property?
Los Angeles Co. sheriff after announcing 2 teens were killed in Calif. school shooting:
"I hate to have Saugus be added to the names of Columbine, Parkland, Sandy Hook, but it's a reality that affects us all throughout the nation. It's something we're gonna have to deal with." pic.twitter.com/rGWVe5BUaC
— NBC News (@NBCNews) November 14, 2019
In situations like this, it has the potential to save lives.
If an individual does not follow the law stated above, and carries a weapon on to school property to inflict harm on others, wouldn’t we want our trained officers to have the ability to stop that individual without the fear of recourse?
(Video above shows how CT restrictions on magazine size don’t save lives in school shootings.)
Cops have children. Cops have to drop those children off at school and pick those children up at times. Cops have to bring forgotten lunches, sports uniforms left at home, or permission slips to the office.
Cops are just like regular parents, whether people would want to believe that or not.
But doing all of those above, while carrying a firearm, would be considered a Class D felony in Connecticut.
Officers are only allowed to carry on school property unless in an official capacity, of they have obtained permission by school administrators to attend a school event in such a capacity.
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If you’re thinking that no one would charge an officer with violating this statute, I wouldn’t be so sure on that. And, if you are still thinking that, you’re missing the point of this article.
It’s not that they may or may not face charges for doing so, its that the law exists against them in the first place!
These are trained, law enforcement processionals. These are the people we send in when a mass shooting happens. So why are they, in an off-duty capacity, not allowed to do something they are expected to do, while on duty?
All of the law enforcement officers I know wouldn’t hesitate if they were off duty an in a place that an incident occurred to immediately jump into action. I think you’d be hard pressed to find any that wouldn’t. So why the restrictions?
— SCV Sheriff (@SCVSHERIFF) November 14, 2019
As many details are still unfolding regarding the Santa Clarita school shooting, what we do know is three officers were there, and rendered aide to victims, without knowing the circumstances while being off duty.
As reported by CNN;
“Detective Daniel Finn of the Santa Clarita Sheriff’s Station was driving away when he heard gunshots and saw terrified children run out. He turned his car around and rushed into the school.”
Two other officers:
“Officer Sean Yanez of Inglewood police and LAPD’s Gus Ramirez also rushed to the scene.” They both had been dropping off family at the school at the time of the shooting. It took these
Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva told reporters:
“It’s a tragedy every way you look at it, but there’s a silver lining behind this: the fact that off-duty first responders were there and did not hesitate, turned around, and went right into the source of the gunfire to attempt to neutralize it, and they rendered first aid immediately. “
“As soon as they saw the six victims, they saw the handgun was there, they realized there was not a pending threat immediately and they tended to the care of all of the victims and got the first aid rolling.” Villanueva said to KTLA. “Their actions definitely saved lives, and my hat’s off to them.”
LET isn’t surprised by the actions of these officers, we understand, when chaos ensues, officers are the ones that run toward the gunfire, not away- on or off duty.
Lawmakers in Connecticut aren’t the only ones lacking logic and leadership in the aftermath of school shootings.
Earlier this year, the Broward school district in Florida offered a slap in the face to the families of all of those killed in the Parkland shooting.
The Broward school district has changed its description of the controversial “Promise” program that lead to the shooting.
Why? So they can sidestep a new state law requiring schools to share more information with law enforcement.
Florida passed a law last year after the mass killing at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. It requires that students who go through pre-arrest diversion programs must be entered into a state database. That database is run by the Department of Juvenile Justice.
The Broward school district doesn’t want to share that information.
So they’re now saying that Promise isn’t really a diversion program.
They’re now calling it an “alternative to external suspension” program, and say that means it doesn’t fall under the new law.
On February 6, the district initially decided its data must be shared and started doing so. They backtracked when they started worrying that doing so made some kids more prone to arrest, and they stopped doing it on March 4.
“I’m not in favor of giving data that’s going to accumulate and be used in a punitive way to levy points that could hurt students,’ said Broward School Board member Rosalind Osgood.
The entire point of the law was to identify dangerous students like the Parkland killer before something like that shooting can happen.
The idea behind it is to give law enforcement access to a child’s full criminal history, including diversions, so police could decide if an arrest was necessary.
The school doesn’t want that. The district’s general counsel, Barbara Myrick, issued a memo on March to Superintendent Robert Runcie and Mickey Pope, an administrator who oversees the program.
That memo says that a diversion program has a specific definition under state law.
According to her, a police-issued civil citation is a type of state-defined diversion, as are programs requiring a student to surrender a driver’s license and “neighborhood restorative justice programs.”
“It is clear that the Promise Program does not meet the statutory definition of a diversion program and therefore, a student’s information/data regarding participation in the Promise Program should not be entered into the Department of Juvenile Justice’s Information System database,” she wrote.
But State Attorney Mike Satz couldn’t disagree more.
“We have always felt and we still feel that Promise is a diversion program,” Satz said in a statement. “We believe there is a requirement under the law to enter the information into the Department of Juvenile Justice database.”
The way the district is now describing the Promise program is a clear change from what it’s said in the past.
Pope, who has since retired, spoke about it to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Commission in June.
“It was modeled after Clayton County, Georgia’s diversion, pre-diversion program,” he said.
That commission has been investigating what lead to the massacre.
On January 17, the district again referred to Promise as a “pre-diversion” program. It came in a report that very specifically outlined how the district was responding to the recommendations of the commission.
In particular, the commission urged that school districts run pre-arrest diversion programs consistently with criteria established by their local state attorney.
In case you weren’t aware, here are the offenses that fall under the Promise Program:
- Alcohol – Possession / Use / Under the Influence
- Alcohol Sale / Attempted Sale / Transmittal
- Assault / Threat (no harm or injury)
- Disruption on Campus (Major)
- Drug – Use / Possession / Under the Influence
- Drug Paraphernalia – Possession
- False Accusation Against School Staff
- Fighting – Mutual Combat
- Theft- Petty <$300
- Vandalism/Damage to Property <$1,000
The school district issued a response. They said that its “pre-diversion program was created in 2011 to provide an alternative to external suspensions for students charged with non-violent disciplinary infractions.”
In a parent meeting on February 5, Runcie was asked about the Promise program. He said, “These pre-diversion programs are required by state laws to provide services to kids that are involved in nonviolent, nonthreatening misdemeanor situations.”
The school district started the Promise program with the support of the Broward Sheriff’s Office, the State Attorney’s Office and other agencies several years ago.
The idea behind it wasn’t to reduce violence – it was to drop the large number of arrests of black teens for minor offenses.
The Obama administration considered it a model for other school districts to follow after arrests dropped dramatically. But it was clearly just a numbers game.
The program came under attack after the Stoneman Douglas tragedy.
Critics argued it allowed the killer to stay off the radar of police while he committed multiple infractions.
The commission said that the program was flawed and recommended the district share information with other law enforcement agencies.
Commission member Ryan Petty’s daughter Alaina was killed at Stoneman Douglas. He said the district’s efforts appear to be an attempt to preserve its “ability to operate the Promise program outside the confines of state law and agreements with local law enforcement agencies and the state attorney.”
Broward school officials argue they want to share information with law enforcement.
According to them, they’re fine with it being used to provide additional resources, such as counseling, to students.
But they say sharing some information, such as non-criminal disciplinary measures, violates students’ privacy rights. They make sure to not say anything about protecting the rights of the students who were killed in the Parkland massacre.
The district spokesman Cathleen Brennan shared a canned response:
The school district is “committed to ensuring full collaboration with law enforcement in sharing appropriate disciplinary actions to ensure the community has both public safety and privacy rights respected,” she said.
She the district is awaiting guidance from the state on how to accomplish this, and argued that law enforcement has always been able to request student discipline data directly through the school administration.
The Broward County Chiefs of Police Association is not happen. It’s been one of the agencies critical of the district’s Promise program. The association is also upset with the lack of shared information among the association’s concerns.
Lauderhill Police Chief Constance Stanley leads the group.
She said the chiefs are trying to resolve differences with the school district, but wouldn’t specifically address the sharing-of-information issue.
“Until we meet with the School Board to further discuss, I will refrain from commenting,” she said. “We will continue to work towards addressing all concerns and hope that we come to a happy medium.”