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L.A. To Equip Campus Police Force With Shotguns

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The Los Angeles school board, following several days of contentious debate, last week authorized school police officers to carry 12-gauge shotguns in their patrol cars.

All 75 of the district's school patrol cars will be equipped with shotguns, and all of its officers will receive training in the use of the weapons.

The pair of board members who opposed the policy in the 5-2 vote said they weren't convinced that the extra firepower was needed in light of reductions in national, city, and school crime rates in the past five years.

Other opponents also cited their fears that students might be accidentally shot at school. Noting that shotguns tend to be less accurate than other firearms and have a wide disbursement, critics said they worry that there might be discharges into a crowd that would hit students and staff members.

"We have a careful police force. But I am very concerned [that] because of the nature of shotguns and the broadcast of the pellets, there could be maiming and killing of innocent bystanders," Valerie Fields, a school board member, said last week.

"I wouldn't want to be responsible for that," said Ms. Fields, the newest member of the board.

Crime Deterrent?

But Pat Spencer, a spokesman for the 682,000-student school system, said the majority of the board believes that the extra weapons will serve as a deterrent to crime. Though both on- and off-campus violent crime among juveniles in Los Angeles has declined in the past several years, property crimes, such as vandalism and theft, have been rising as schools acquire expensive high-tech equipment and computers, he said.

A shotgun, with a wider range than a handgun, is a more effective weapon if an officer is confronted with several burglars at a school in the dark, for example, Mr. Spencer said.

Each of the 295 school police officers in the Los Angeles district is a bona fide officer--not a security guard--and receives the same training required of Los Angeles Police Department officers, who are also authorized to carry shotguns.

Most of the board members felt that "the school police force ought to be equipped with the necessary tools to do their job as efficiently as possible," Mr. Spencer said.

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