Compton School Police Allowed to Carry AR-15 Rifles: Policy

Supporters of the SoCal school board's proposal say that the standard police handgun is not capable of piercing soft body armor and are only accurate up to 25 feet.

Some Compton residents are concerned about a policy passed by the school board last month that allows some campus police officers to purchase semi-automatic AR-15 rifles and carry them in the trunk of their patrol cars while on duty.

According to the policy proposal presented to the board, allowing officers to have the rifles could be a "more effective means to protect the students, staff, community, and police personnel in high risk and/or dangerous situations."

"These kids don’t deserve reactive measures, but protective measures," said Francisco Orozco, a recent graduate of Dominguez High School and founder of the Compton Democratic Club.

Orozco said the ability of the police to carry the high-powered weapons represents a needless escalation of force.

Supporters of the proposal say the standard police handgun is not capable of piercing soft body armor and are only accurate up to 25 feet. They say in an active shooter scenario, the standard issue weapon might not be enough to stop the threat to students and staff.

"This is our objective -- save lives, bottom line," Compton Unified Police Chief William Wu told NBC4's Media Partner KPCC.

Orozco said the examples of school shootings used by the Compton school police chief to convince the board to approve the measure were inapplicable to the district’s schools.


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"The school board just ate everything up," Orozco said. "We think that the decision was made too quickly and completely without discussion."

Officers that apply to have the weapon must meet a number of criteria, including being with the department for at least three years and participating in at least 16 hours of training courses.

While individual officers are responsible for the purchase and maintenance of the rifle, which costs about $1,000, the Compton Unified School District is required to shoulder the cost of ammunition and training courses.

The Compton School Police Officers Association on Facebook defended the policy, citing the training and proficiency requirements for officers who have the rifles.

The association also pointed to other school district police forces who have passed similar measures including the Baldwin Park Unified School District Police Department, the Los Angeles Unified School Police Department and Fontana Unified School District police.

"We need to make sure we have the proper firepower as some of the suspects who may be carrying assault rifles," said Chief Jill Poe of the Baldwin Park School Police Department.

In October 2013, a child at an elementary school in Chino fired an AR-15 rifle mounted on a police motorbike, wounding three students.

NBC4's Kathy Vara contributed to this report.

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