AP: Topeka schools' police force wants more firepower

1/28/2013

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The head of security for the Topeka school district is asking the board to give all its officers access to high-powered semi-automatic rifles, not just the ones contracted through the police department, following a review of security procedures in the wake of a deadly shooting at a Connecticut elementary school.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The head of security for the Topeka school district is asking the board to give all its officers access to high-powered semi-automatic rifles, not just the ones contracted through the police department, following a review of security procedures in the wake of a deadly shooting at a Connecticut elementary school.

The nearly 14,000-student district has 10 officers on a district-led force and contracts for an additional 10 through the Topeka Police Department. The district's force carries only semi-automatic handguns, while the officers contracted through the police department also carry semi-automatic rifles, said Ron Brown, the district's director of school safety.

Depending on where the contracted officers are working, the semi-automatic rifles are locked in gun safes in the schools or attached to electronically locking rifle racks in patrol vehicles.

Brown recently told the school board that he wants his officers to have semi-automatic rifles, too.

"Looking at the weaponry that the bad guys are using, it just appeared to us that additional fire power would be helpful," he said in a telephone interview on Friday.

He made a presentation to the school board and followed up with a written proposal on Jan. 18 to the district's superintendent. He has requested Colt AR-15s, stun guns and more security cameras.

"A number of our police officers patrol day shift and second shift, and their weapons would be located in their vehicles," Brown said of the semi-automatic rifles. "And they would have those available if they responded."

Security has received increased attention after the mass shootings in July at a theater in the Denver suburb of Aurora and in December at Sandy Hook Elementary, where a gunman killed 20 children, six educators and himself. Before going to the school, the Connecticut gunman killed his mother.

"My primary concern is that when you look at situations like Aurora and Sandy Hook, if your officers are simply carrying a semi-automatic handgun, they are really outgunned when they are trying to deal with an individual with some type of assault rifle," Brown said. "And so our goal was to at least equalize our ability to confront that individual."

District spokesman Ronald Harbaugh said in an email that he anticipated the board would discuss the proposal "in the near future."

It's unclear whether other Kansas districts are considering similar steps. Kathy Toelkes, a spokeswoman for the Kansas Department of Education, said.

state education officials don't monitor whether districts allow police or hired security to carry high-powered weapons on school campuses.

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