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Time to act on school resource officers for every Harford school [Editorial]

The Aegis

There may be no solution evident to end the madness of mass shootings in this country, as the editorial below this on on our website correctly suggests, but where Harford County elected officials are concerned, there is something that can be done to help prevent one.

We are talking about deploying a sworn and armed police officer at every public school in this county, all 54 of them, one hour before and one hour after each school day.

Let’s start with the most basic of protections for our most important, precious resource, our children. Frankly, the State of Maryland should pass legislation mandating police in every school, public or private. In the case of the latter, if it leads to higher tuition, so be it. If it leads to higher taxes in the case of the public schools, it should be considered, though we are by no means convinced this would be necessary.

Certainly not in Harford County, where millions are spent annually for agricultural preservation, courthouse security, animal control, private contractors on the county government payroll with no real budget oversight, outside lawyers fighting lawsuits and far too many bureaucrats in the school system, county administration, county council and sheriff’s office.

Harford County Executive Barry Glassman and Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler, both running for re-election, have balked at supporting putting a police officer in every school, Glassman citing budget considerations, which is something he controls, and Gahler saying back in April it would be a “great fiscal undertaking,” during a time when it is already difficult to hire qualified applicants.

We say, where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Last year, following school shootings in Florida and Southern Maryland, a public forum on school security held in Bel Air found many of those attending telling Glassman, Gahler and school system leaders that they needed to start addressing the situation locally by first having police officers on the premises at each building.

We see that as a minimum requirement, not the only step that needs to be taken, for sure, but the first one.

The county executive, sheriff and school system already have agreed to deploy resource officers in all local middle schools – adding to the daily presence of such officers in the high schools. The estimated cost of this deployment is $1.2 million annually, in addition to the money already being spent at either county or municipal levels of such officers.

The estimate for deploying an officer at each Harford public elementary school is as high as $7 million annually, money we believe can be found without resorting to tax increases. If hiring another 40 or so officers poses a logistical issue for Gahler, then maybe the county needs to consider establishing a separate school police force. Certainly we would hope that won’t be necessary.

What is necessary is to provide full police coverage of our Harford County schools as soon as humanly possible. Let’s not wait for another tragedy to happen. Let’s prepare for the worst, while still hoping for the best. Harford County needs to be a leader in school security, not a foot dragger.

avought@theaegis.com

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