PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A retired Warwick police detective is urging the state to place armed officers in all Rhode Island schools.
Tim Colgan, founder of School Safety Now, said the armed officers would differ from school resource officers. The armed officers, he said, would solely be tasked with protecting the school itself and those inside.
“Enough is enough,” Colgan said, “It is about time we start protecting our kids the way we protect the governor and the State House.”
Colgan and his daughter Kristen Santos launched the nonprofit shortly after last month’s deadly shooting at a Christian elementary school in Nashville.
“Tennessee showed us that the school was fortified, the doors were locked, alarms were going off,” Colgan said. “Still, the perpetrator got in.”
“Had that person been met at the door by a law enforcement officer, I bet no innocent lives would’ve been lost,” he continued. “That’s the big difference.”
Colgan suggested that retired police officers be hired to protect school buildings, similarly to how they’re used to guard court buildings.
Ensuring that all K-12 schools in Rhode Island are protected by armed officers isn’t easy, nor is it cheap. Colgan estimated that it would cost roughly $30 million to place armed officers in every public and private school building.
But not everyone is onboard.
Steven Brown, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island, believes adding armed officers to schools “debases the atmosphere and is really unnecessary.”
Brown also believes that $30 million would be best used elsewhere.
“My guess is that most schools have a whole bucket list of where they would want to see that money spent,” he explained.
Moms Demand Action’s Tony Morettini argues that having armed officers in schools isn’t the answer. He pointed to last year’s shooting in Uvalde, where officers were criticized for not taking immediate action to stop the shooter.
“The good guys with the guns there didn’t stop the bad guy with the guns,” Moretti said.
Colgan is working to convince lawmakers to support his initiative. While he knows it won’t necessarily happen right away, Colgan is hopeful that his nonprofit will at least catch the state’s attention.
“We are not going to have a police officer in every school tomorrow,” Colgan said. “But if we really work on it and are diligent, we will get the job done eventually.”
In a statement, R.I. House Speaker Joe Shekarchi said Colgan’s proposal “has merit.”
“It’s an idea that is worthy of more research and we would need a lot more information, particularly about an annual appropriations of $30 million and who would pay for it,” Shekarchi said.
Shekarchi also suggested Colgan reach out to the stakeholders involved, including police departments and school superintendents, for their thoughts on the initiative.
12 News reached out to the Rhode Island Department of Education regarding Colgan’s proposal, to which a spokesperson explained that it is up to the districts to decide whether to place armed officers in their school buildings.
“The decision to place an officer in a school is ultimately made at the local level based on the needs and priorities of each school community,” the spokesperson explained.
School Safety Now is circulating a petition asking for community support for the initiative. So far, the petition has more than 350 signatures.