The debate over “defunding” the NYPD has grabbed all the headlines, but it is not the only public safety challenge we face.
I do not support defunding. In fact, now that the economy is starting to rebound, we should be focusing on restoring funding for the NYPD for more training, specialized response resources, mobile police units and anti-gang and gun violence initiatives.
But the conversation about safety cannot end there because the proposal to remove NYPD safety officers from our schools is a dangerous movement that must also be addressed. Our school safety officers are a critical part of the school safety ecosystem and they should remain part of the NYPD and in our schools.
As a father of two young children, including one entering Kindergarten next fall, I am deeply concerned that anyone would even consider a plan that jeopardizes the safety of our kids. I stand firmly against any plan to eliminate school safety officers from the NYPD or remove them from our schools.
Consisting of roughly 7,000 people that are overwhelmingly women of color and who mostly live in the same communities in which they work, school safety officers are mama bears protecting our cubs, as well as our educators and school personnel. They deserve our respect and support. That is why it’s so disappointing to see another candidate for City Council in our area, Richard Lee, call for removing police from our schools. It’s even more confusing that like me, Mr. Lee is a father of young children, yet he is taking a reckless position that would put children in danger. The only silver lining is that he seems to be the only candidate in our area that wants to strip our schools of safety tools.
Equipped with just flashlights, not guns or Tasers as some would have you believe, you don’t hear about school safety officers because stopping bullying, confiscating a weapon or breaking up a gang action doesn’t make the news because they’re doing their job. But if you want concrete examples that underscore how essential school safety agents are you don’t need to look very far. At Middle School 158 in Bayside, parents were enraged by persistent bullying and sexual abuse and harassment. Across the city, recent data shows approximately 300 major crimes, nearly 1,000 thefts, more than 2,700 confiscated weapons, and bone-chilling incidents of loaded guns and knives being brought into classrooms.
I am outraged that we even need to debate the safety of our children. It’s a disgrace that some candidates, like Mr. Lee, believe it’s politically potent to attack and discard school safety officers instead of letting them remain where they belong – as part of the NYPD, in our schools and protecting our children, teachers and school staff.
I hope this issue gets more attention and anyone supporting any plans to remove school safety officers from the NYPD reconsiders this dangerous position. Just like many other parents, when I drop-off my son at school I want to have confidence that he and all of our school children will be safe because you don’t get a second chance if they’re not.
Austin Shafran is a candidate for New York City Council District 19 in Queens.
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