ARIZONA CAPITOL TIMES: Task force wants law changes to put more cops in schools

by | Dec 8, 2023 | In The News

In a recent article by Howard Fischer of the Capitol Media Services, a special task force is advocating for legislative changes to enhance school and family safety in Arizona. The task force proposes expanding the use of school safety grants to include measures that protect not only students but also their families. Fischer writes:

Mike Kurtenbach, director of school safety for the Arizona Department of Education, said Thursday there is a demand by some districts for sworn police officers in their buildings. But he said there are not enough officers available to fill that need.

Members of the School Safety Task Force are proposing ways to deal with that, including finding ways to encourage retired police officers to take the jobs.

But Kurtenbach said more is needed.

These funds, traditionally allocated for school resource officers, could also be utilized for advanced safety measures like auto-locking doors and bullet-resistant glass. According to the story:

“There is a desire to expand the funding to include other needs, particularly around physical safety at school,” he said. That can include design features, like doors that automatically lock in situations with an active shooter and “ballistic film” that can be placed over existing glass that prevents it from shattering when shot, slowing down those hoping to shoot their way into a building or classroom.

Mike Kurtenbach, the director of school safety for the Arizona Department of Education, emphasized the need for diverse safety solutions, including technology that can preemptively identify threats. As the story notes:

“There are artificial intelligence systems out there that can detect systems before the human eye can,” Kurtenbach explained. He said things like this would provide “another tool to enhance safety.”

“Cameras are great,” said Kurtenbach, a former Phoenix police officers.

“But they’re only as good as somebody monitoring the cameras,” he said. “If you have an algorithm, if you have technology that can sense a threat, that can identify that threat beforehand, that’s a tool that everyone would agree had tremendous value because in a critical situation, seconds matter.”

With an $84 million school safety grant fund primarily directed at increasing police presence in schools, the task force acknowledges the challenge of recruiting officers due to current shortages in police departments. Kurtenbach suggests leveraging retired officers as a potential solution, though this approach faces legal and financial hurdles. According to Fischer:

“That’s going to be a big number,” said Kurtenbach. “There’s no doubt about that.”

And state schools chief Tom Horne would not say how much more he intends to seek from lawmakers.

See the full story here.

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