Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The Police Officer and the Community

A year ago or thereabouts, Mayor Bill de Blasio started a community policing program. The idea, I guess, was to get police on the street like the beat cops of yore. Where would these cops come from? It appears the mayor pulled them from the public schools. After all, cops don't suddenly appear from magical fairy dust, and hiring more cops would entail paying their salaries and stuff.

In our school, we had a resident police officer for thirteen years. Some people have large issues with police in schools. I had smaller ones. Our officer, Raul Espinet, tended to talk a lot at security meetings. This upset me, because our AP Security runs the best meetings I've ever attended in my life. He would have three agenda items, would burn through them in five minutes, and we would all leave. Espinet always had comments.

In fairness, how many teachers ask questions at meetings, thus making them longer? And while I'd like to chide the newer teachers for not knowing better, they frequently turn out to be vets. Sometimes they are me, in fact.

On the other hand, our deans loved him. He would give them heads up about gang activity and drugs in our area. He would preclude issues that may have entered our school otherwise. So ultimately, the information he provided was of more value than my desire to leave absolutely every meeting at the earliest possible minute. I mean, you think you go to a lot of meetings, but chapter leaders go to a lot of meetings.

Anyway, I started getting a whole lot of complaints that Espinet was leaving. The timing was particularly troubling, right after the Florida shootings. A lot of people were on edge. I contacted Susan Edelman from the Post, who was very interested. She sent a colleague to our school on parent-teacher day, and it turned out our PTA was passing around a petition to get our "armed officer" back. I didn't like the emphasis on "armed" so I didn't sign it. But a thousand other people did.

Edelman's story generated a lot of interest. NBC 4 picked it up, and within days our PTA President and one of our students were on Fox and Friends, of all places. I was able to tell some of my right-leaning friends that I was indirectly responsible for a story on their favorite network. Who would've thunk it?

Someone relented, eventually and there was soon another story saying that police would return to three very large schools in our area, Lewis, Bayside and Cardozo. My sources tell me the DOE did not want this to happen, but bowed to pressure.

This was a moment when union, community and the press came together and we made something happen. It was an energy that moved from person to person and culminated in our getting something. This is kind of how things are supposed to work. I look forward to being part of more things like this one.
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