Police officers and sheriff's deputies who have simply cruised by elementary and middle schools in the past will add campus visits to their daily patrols beginning Monday, the first day that LAUSD students will be back in class since the Dec. 14 school shootings in Connecticut.
Officials from more than a dozen law enforcement agencies were finalizing plans Friday for how to deploy patrol officers, detectives and administrators for walk-and-talk stops at nearly 600 Los Angeles Unified campuses. Dozens of charters and private schools have asked for police visits, as well.
"At some point during the day, we'll be at every elementary and middle school and private school that has asked," said Los Angeles Police Department Cmdr. Andy Smith. "They'll park and walk around and talk to kids and administrators and look at the school's safety plan.
"We want to reassure parents that we're doing everything we can to keep their children safe."
With LAUSD's 350-member police force already stationed at the district's 100-plus high schools, officials with the LAPD, the county Sheriff's Department and the dozen other law enforcement agencies that serve the sprawling district said they would assign officers to visit K-8 campuses.
While municipal police officers won't be on campus full time, as the school police are, the hope is that their presence will deter intruders and other threats at elementary and middle schools.
The beefed-up patrol plan was announced Dec. 17, three days after a gunman shot his way into Sandy Hook Elementary and massacred 20 first-graders and six adults in Newtown, Conn. During a press conference, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said the attack spotlighted the vulnerability of youngsters in a classroom setting.
"A barrier has been broken in our culture, and that barrier is the safety of our youngest residents," Beck said at the time. "It's all of our jobs to make sure that we resurrect that barrier and that our children are safe."
Smith said the goal is to have the same officers check in with each school so they can become familiar with the staff and students. There's no plan to pay the officers overtime, so the school visits will have to be squeezed in with their other duties.
Because LAPD doesn't have the manpower to assign patrol officers to every school, detectives and administrators will be taking up the slack.
"What we're hoping is that different entities can adopt a school," Smith said.
He and a couple of officers from his media relations division will check in with Main Street Elementary, for instance, while a crew from community relations will visit Maple Primary Center.
There's no estimate of how long the school patrols will last.
However, Steve Zipperman, the retired LAPD captain who now heads the Los Angeles Unified Police Department, sees a huge benefit in having law enforcement establish closer relationships with the K-8 schools in their communities.
School district police act as role models and mentors at the high schools where they're stationed and also are better able to handle problems because of their rapport with students and staff, he said. He sees the same kinds of possibilities for other law enforcement agencies and K-8 schools.
"Schools are the safest haven there is during the day," he said. "We can provide proper security for everybody so teachers can teach, administrators can run schools and students can learn."
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