The Compton Branch of the NAACP and Mayor Aja Brown have asked the Compton Unified School District (CUSD) to “rescind” and “reconsider” a decision the board made during a July 8 meeting to allow selected officers on the school police force to carry high-powered AR15 rifles.
“We think that at a time when excessive use of force (is a problem) this decision sends the wrong message to the community, especially the community of Black and Brown people who have a problem with police brutality,” said Paulette Simpson-Gipson, president of the Compton NAACP.
Brown echoed the sentiment. “The controversy surrounding the deployment of high-powered assault weapons by CUSD police officers begs for more input from Compton community stakeholders.
Community residents are rightfully concerned about the potential use of assault weapons on their school campuses. We are undoubtedly living in an age of unthinkable violent acts against students, which we mourn as a nation. It is the duty of public servants to protect and serve, and it is critical for proper consideration to be made for decisions of serious proportion.”
Francisco Arozco, founder of the Compton Democratic Club, recent graduate of Dominguez High, as well as a former school board candidate also pointed to a lawsuit filed last year by Latino parents alleging racial profiling as another reason to rethink the action.
Simpson-Gibson also noted several pending accusations of excessive force against the Compton School Police, including one that happened in May.
“A young lady at Centennial High was pepper sprayed and dragged out of a police car by her hair. In that instance, after reviewing the video, it appears to be excessive force.”
In another incident at Compton High, a young man and his mother were arrested by the police and he was accused of hitting an officer. Simpson-Gibson said legal action is pending in both cases.
“We also have several videos of the police yelling at kids,” says the NAACP president, adding that these are just some of the reasons why the community is accusing the police of using excessive force.
In addition to concerns about the issue of excessive force, parents were not given an opportunity to weigh in on the policy before it was adopted, a concern mentioned by School Board Member Mae Thomas, who none-the-less joined her colleagues in approving the move.
Compton School Police Chief William Wu says the intent of adding the AR15 to officers’ arsenal is to simply to provide them with additional “tools” to keep students and staff safe.
“Our objective is quite simple—we want to save lives. The safety of Compton school students, faculty and staff is our prime concern.
“These rifles give us greater flexibility in dealing with a person with bad intent who comes onto any of our campuses. The officers will keep the rifles in the trunks of their cars, unless they are needed. It should also be pointed out that many other community and school law enforcement departments already have these weapons.
“The goal—as always—is ensuring safety—and as a department and as a school district we are committed to that achieving that goal.”