City official: Armed police in schools are ‘a last resort’

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

According to Philadelphia Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Everett Gillison, "only as a last resort" should armed city police officers be stationed in schools.

"I do believe that schools are not supposed to be pathways to jail," he said, noting that city police can make arrests, unlike school police officers.

His comments came after an Inquirer report that Mayor Nutter and Police Chief Charles Ramsey were discussing such a move.

To address school violence, the District is collaborating with city departments including Police, Human Services, and Behavioral Health. Gillison said the team hopes to have a plan in place by September.

The effort started when Superintendent Arlene Ackerman approached the mayor, Gillison, and Ramsey last year. The Police Department sent Chief Inspector Myron Patterson to the District to evaluate safety policies and "find out how we can be helpful," Gillison said.

Patterson, now serving as the District’s chief safety executive, produced a report currently under discussion. While he declined to discuss details, he did say that a major recommendation is to vastly improve training for the unarmed school police.

On the state level, legislation to reinstate the Office of the Safe Schools Advocate has been approved by the House Education Committee. The office, eliminated in 2009 under the Rendell administration, advocated on behalf of the victims of school violence and monitored the accuracy of schools’ reporting of violent incidents. The co-sponsor of the bill, Rep. John Taylor (R., Phila.), expects the bill to become law before the summer recess.