Earlier this month, a 25-year-old repeat violent offender approached the entrance to Frederick Douglass High School in Baltimore with one intention: to kill. He shot a school employee, who ultimately helped capture the man, along with the assigned unarmed school officer and two armed supervisors who happened to be there. We are proud of the work of our members that day, but, at the same time, we also know that this incident was not the first of its kind, nor will it be the last.
If you are the parent of a child in our schools, you must decide if you truly feel that their safety is currently adequate. When another incident occurs, will your child be returned home to you, unharmed? Statistically, the answer is a difficult one.
Each week in Baltimore, there are three to five incidents in which our schools are placed on lockdown due to gunfire in the immediate area of our facilities. We have recovered approximately 25 guns in our school buildings since the 2016 Maryland legislative session quashed our efforts to allow our school officers to be armed. We recovered seven guns in the first six months of this school year alone. These numbers should give pause to every individual with a vested interest in our children and our schools.
Baltimore is a city where gun violence is commonplace, where our school children are confronted with death and destruction every day, and where school should be the one place where they are safely sheltered and able to learn. As School Police Officers, we are more than adequately prepared to meet this challenge. Our training is extensive in all areas, including de-escalation and restorative practices. There have been no cases of excessive use of force by our members in over two calendar years. Arrests are down as we have implemented a modern policing philosophy that focuses only on felonies and crimes against persons. We are not involved in school discipline matters.
Despite our preparedness and training, those of us who are assigned to a school facility can only bring our fists to a gunfight. We are not security guards, as most believe. We are highly trained law enforcement professionals who are taught to fight force with equal force and to run toward a threat, rather than away. To expect anything less is a disservice to our city, our schools and most importantly, our innocent children.
We have no argument with those who believe that there are other ways to protect against school violence: increased mental health professionals, security cameras and metal detectors. We agree, but we also know, that these other methods can only work in conjunction with our fully equipped officers. Recently, our operating budget was trimmed from $13 million to $7 million to allow for these other methods. But on Feb. 8th, at Douglass High School, no metal detector, security camera or mental health professional could do anything to stop the suspect. Only our armed officers were able to stop the threat.
When school resumed at Douglass High School, the returning staff and students were met at the door by members of our agency in a show of our solidarity with their grief and pain. It was a very difficult day and, as I looked around at those who were there, I did not see any of those folks who so loudly proclaim their belief that School Police Officers need not be armed. They were not there on the day that this criminal decided to disrupt the safety and well-being of the Douglass community and they were not there the day that the Douglass staff and students so solemnly returned to their spaces.
We, the members of the Baltimore School Police, ask only to be allowed to perform our sworn function as required. We are important to the success of our students, and the school system, and should be respected as such. I, for one, cannot imagine the pain that would be felt if the loss of innocent lives occurred because we were not able to properly defend against intended harm.