Vitality Is in the Eye of the Person Who Didn’t Do Much


There’s something sadly typical about the claims that the “resource officer” at Portsmouth High School makes regarding a former student’s strange assault on a teacher as he attempted to enter the gymnasium:

The school resource officer sprang into action and soon arrived to find a physical education teacher in hysterics, saying she had just been assaulted by a man trying to get into the gym. The teacher told [Maddie] Pirri the suspect had left and ran towards the school’s main office. …

[Marcus] Schlip, 22, denied the assault, according to Pirri, but because of multiple 911 calls from students identifying him as the perpetrator, she arrested him. A 7-inch, military-style blade was found in his backpack. …

“As soon as I entered the main office, I did observe the suspect in the main office sitting down,” Pirri recalled. “Just casually sitting.”

In summary, the dedicated on-campus police officer did pretty much nothing.  A teacher stopped the assailant from entering the gym; students called 911; and the suspect walked to the main office and sat down of his own volition.  The claim of Shaun Towne and Steve Nielsen’s WPRI headline — that the incident “shows why [the resource officer] position is vital” — could be fodder for an Onion article or a comic skit.

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Sure, one could imagine circumstances in which her presence was critical to a relatively desirable outcome, but then again, one could imagine circumstances that were the opposite.  If Schlip had panicked upon seeing a single cop coming toward the office, he could have become dangerous again or run, whereas a larger police presence — even if it arrived a few minutes later — may have prevented that outcome.  Or not.  We don’t know.

The point is that, in the scenario that actually occurred, we find evidence on the side of those who argued that putting a police officer in every school at great expense in response to Sandy Hook was generally a waste of resources.  Other security measures along with changes in patrol routes (for example) could ensure at least the same security without the cost in pay and benefits (including pensions) and without giving kids the sense that they must live always in the presence of uniformed police.