- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 20, 2014

As critics question the militarization of police in light of ongoing unrest in St. Louis, some California residents are expressing similar concerns over a new measure that allows Compton school officers to carry AR-15 rifles.

As Compton students head back to school Monday, parents are expressing concern about a school board policy passed in July that allows campus police to carry semi-automatic rifles in their trunks while on duty, according to KPCC, a Southern California public radio station.

“This is our objective — save lives, bottom line,” Compton Unified Police Chief William Wu told the board, arguing that assault-style rifles are more deadly and more accurate.

“Handguns you’d be lucky to hit accurately at 25 yards,” Chief Wu said, the station reported. “With a rifle in the hands of a trained person, you can go 50, 100 yards, accurately.”

School officers would have pass an internal selection process to be able to carry the AR-15 rifles on campus. Chief Wu said the program will likely have select officers trained and carrying such guns in time for the new school year, KPCC reported.

But not everyone is thrilled about the measure. Francisco Orozco, a recent Dominguez High School graduate and founder of the Compton Democratic Club, said police would be of better use focusing on day-to-day security concerns, rather than arming themselves for a worst-case scenario. He cited recent allegations in which Compton school police officers were accused of racial profiling and excessive force.

“This escalation of weapons we feel is very unnecessary,” he told KPCC. “The school police has not even earned the right to carry handguns.”

Joe Grubbs, president of the California Association of School Resource Officers, argued that an assault rifle is a “tool.”

“If there’s an issue with Compton and how Unified School Police are engaging with the community, that should not affect their availability to tools that can save kids,” he said.

Chief Wu said he trusts his officers and that they do not engage in racial profiling. He also said his door is open to hear complaints from the community, KPCC reported.