US school police win fight for shotguns

6th March 1998 at 00:00
The Los Angeles school police, the largest such force in the United States, has won the right to carry shotguns in their cars. The school board voted to approve the new weapons despite objections from those fearing their use on crowded campuses.

The district's officers already carry 0.38-calibre pistols and the 9mm handguns that are the standard issue for most big city police forces. But they say shotguns, in a crunch, are a "basic police tool" - and potentially safer because of their shorter range.

After a heated debate, the board agreed to buy 75 Remington 12-gauge shotguns after an appeal from the police officers' union.

"If anybody is harmed or killed, this board of education will be responsible," said board president Julie Korenstein, who joined the minority voting against the plan. Nearly 300 school police patrol 900 sites across the LA school district, which covers 700 square miles and has more than 680,000 students.

They can make arrests in and around schools, and much of their work consists of protecting school grounds - and increasingly sophisticated equipment - from burglary and theft. Typically, the shotguns will be locked in patrol cars while officers go on foot patrols, not taken into classrooms.

Most school crime takes place after hours, and it has been on the decline. But officers often end up patrolling around school buildings, and four Los Angeles students have been reported killed off campus in the past four months alone.

From Tim Cornwell, in Los Angeles

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