Hiring police or armed security guards to protect every Minnesota school would cost roughly $138 million.
Government officials are trying to find a way to better protect children at school in the wake of the shooting in Newtown, CT which claimed the lives of 26 children and adults. Keeping an armed guard at the door may help prevent unauthorized individuals from entering the building, but it would require a large budget.
“The cost would be just astronomical,” said Scott Croonquist, a member of the Association of Metropolitan School Districts. Croonquist also said he believes the National Rifle Association’s proposal would face opposition for reasons other than cost.
“They don’t feel the answer would be to bring more guns into schools,” said Croonquist.
Some Minnesota districts already station an armed guard in the building, but the officers often patrol the building and don’t spend much time blocking intruders from entering the building. The district employs 16 in-school officers, a supervisor, and a school patrol officer which costs Minnesota schools nearly $900,000 each year, and that’s with the police department underwriting the cost of cars, radios, and summer patrols.
While placing an armed guard at every school entrance may be unrealistic, having a police officer in the school can help students develop a better relationship with authorities, said officer Mike Kirchen, who patrols a Cleveland Park Community School.
“Our No. 1 job in schools is to connect with kids on a personal level,” Kirchen said.
Kirchen said he often high fives kids as they get off the bus, and can help answer questions or talk through problems children experience in their daily life. He noted one situation where he spoke to a child who witnessed his neighbor’s dog being put down by a police officer. Kirchen was able to explain the situation and answer the questions the child had.
“It lets them see a different side of Minneapolis cops than they see [outside school],” he said.
The Minnesota Police Department records interactions between students and officers like Kirchen. They report that nine of 10 interactions are positive, while the rest often involve incidents like breaking up a fight or the discovery of theft or vandalism.
Police and school individuals work together to select officers for the school patrol program.
“It was important to find the right 16 officers,” Kirchen said. “I’ve heard from some officers that they don’t have the mentality to deal with kids all day.”
Kirchen said building relationships with the children helps prevent incidents because students trust the officer with the information. Students will sometimes say things to Kirchen like “just so you know, this is going on.” Kirchen said tips from students have led to drug and weapon discoveries.
Although Kirchen’s work has been successful, stationing a police officer in all 1,968 public schools would be costly. Based on figures reported in 2012 for the statewide police and fire pension plan, the cost would be roughly $138 million, but could be lowered if armed security guards were used in lieu of police officers.
School officials in the Twin Cities have yet to discuss the proposal by the NRA, but they plan to evaluate the best course of action to make schools safer. Alternative solutions include implementing more secure doors and windows.
Even if armed guards were stationed in every school, some fear that bringing more weapons into schools could cause more problems.
“I think the NRA suggestion is a very simplistic view of the world,” said Jean O’Connell, member of the St. Paul school board.
Related Source: Star-Tribune