Drake Cop On Campus Program
"Please Leave The Gun Somewhere Else"
By Jim Scanlon
Some 20-25 parents met at Drake High School on short notice January 11 at 8:30 a.m. to discuss a federal grant of $125,000 that has been approved by the US Department of Justice under the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) to hire a uniformed and armed police officer to be assigned to the Drake campus.
School principal Don Drake said that the early morning meeting was the first to address concerns over the program and a second would be held, if necessary, at night, with a presentation to the Trustees set for March 8, 2005
Seemingly all parents with the exception of two, had reservations about the need for an armed police officer and the atmosphere of distrust, unease and fear that this might create. The need for an officer to be armed and in uniform was also questioned.
Principal Don Drake said that the uniform and firearm were conditions for accepting the grant. The cost to the school would be $16,000 per year or $48,000 over the three year term of the grant. The cost to the town of San Anselmo would be $100,000 for the three year period.
One of the parents from the committee that applied for the grant said that there were concerns about safety, emergency procedures, crime and strangers on campus, and when they applied for the grant, "We never thought in our wildest imagination that we would get it approved."
Although Principal Drake said that the grant had nothing to do with the Patriot Act and Homeland security, Richard Sloan, a Trustee for the Lagunitas School District whose daughter attends Drake, read from a copy of a web page from the COPS web site which had a quote by Attorney General John Ashcroft and listed training sessions promoting "homeland security."
Some of the concerns of parents expressed at the meeting were that parent were not informed about the grant until it was a "done deal," that no information had been sent home, that there was nothing going on campus that warranted a police officer to be present at all times, that the school's present security staff of two workers was more than sufficient and that an armed officer might undermine and undervalue their work, that the school's money would be better spent on a teacher's salary, that the DARE program run by police was a failure etc., etc.
An article on the meeting appeared in the Independent Journal by two reporters who were not present at the meeting and therefore their observations were not first hand. The quotes from their sources create the impression that a concern was that the program "Reeks of big brother" alluding to the all pervading totalitarian control described in George Orwell's famous novel. This reporter did not hear the term "big brother" used. What seemed of greatest concern was that they, and their children, would feel that the staff of the school was not in control and that a police officer was necessary.
While principal Drake and Commander James Providenza of the San Anselmo Police Department were at pains to deny that the program was not a "done deal," the San Anselmo police officer who had apparently been chosen as the SRO (School Resource Officer) was present but did not speak. His father, whose daughter attends the school, was present and spoke in favor of the program as right for the school and of his son as right for the program.
At the end of the meeting when Principal Drake asked for a show of hands as to who had reservations about the program, everyone raised their hand except the father of the SRO designate.
The next meeting of parents will be held on the evening of February 2. This meeting will undoubtedly be better attended by supporters of the program.