- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 17, 2004

D.C. lawmakers are considering changes that would give the city’s police chief the added responsibility of overseeing school security in the midst of an academic year that has seen one student fatally shot in a school hallway and another killed outside a school.

“There would be a seamless approach to crime-fighting efforts in the neighborhoods in and around these schools where the problems have taken place,” said D.C. Council member Kevin P. Chavous, Ward 7 Democrat.

Mr. Chavous introduced draft legislation yesterday that would transfer control of school security from the superintendent of public schools to Metropolitan Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey.

“The superintendent should be focused on the academic needs of our kids, and not security,” said Mr. Chavous, who heads the council committee overseeing schools and libraries. The plan would place public schools’ $15 million security budget under Chief Ramsey’s control.

Council member Adrian Fenty, Ward 4 Democrat, said he opposes transferring security oversight to the police department without first making sure the D.C. Board of Education favors the idea.

Mr. Fenty said city officials do not have authority to change the management structure within the school system. “The Board of Education has to decide that,” he said.

Mr. Fenty also criticized comments from Democratic Mayor Anthony A. Williams, indicating he favors the takeover, as “completely knee-jerk.”

Along with the killings inside Ballou High School and outside Anacostia High School, both in Southeast, two other male students are facing charges of trying to bring a gun into Wilson High School in Northwest.

Since the Feb. 2 fatal shooting at Ballou, Chief Ramsey has been putting together a plan to increase security at the school. Mr. Williams and senior members of his staff are reviewing that plan.

“This affects the city as a whole,” said Officer Ken Bryson, a police department spokesman.

As of yesterday afternoon, Mr. Chavous and other council members said they had not been briefed on the plan.

Sources in the mayor’s office have said the goal is to tailor the Ballou plan for wide use.

“Whatever is done in Ballou will become a model for other schools,” said Tony Bullock, spokesman for the mayor.

Mr. Bullock said the proposal calls for an increased police presence in city schools, but that replacing security with police officers is not feasible.

“There are 140 schools [in the District],” Mr. Bullock said. “If 10 officers are put in each school, that would be about half of the force.”

Mr. Bullock said city police would likely oversee the contract security. “There will be a transfer of responsibility from [D.C. Public Schools] to the [Metropolitan Police Department].”

Chief Ramsey has said he may seek council approval to enable off-duty officers to work second jobs, augmenting the contract security now used at city high schools.

“This is a serious challenge,” Mr. Bullock said. “Chief Ramsey needs to make it clear exactly what the police can and cannot do.”

“You can’t solve every problem with more police. We don’t want our schools to become detention facilities,” he said.

D.C. Council member Jack Evans, Ward 2 Democrat, said using police officers as hall monitors would be like using National Guard troops to fight city crime. “It’s scary,” he said.

“Will that officer have a gun? Can they go into lockers?” Mr. Evans asked. He said while parents want their children to attend safe schools, many have concerns about how their children will be treated by police used to enforcing the law on city streets.

“This seems like a quick fix in a political year,” said Mr. Evans, who is up for re-election in November, along Mr. Chavous and Sandra Allen, Ward 8 Democrat.

• Staff writers Tarron Lively and Jim McElhatton contributed to this article.

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