Ducey’s school safety plan includes $11M for campus police
PHOENIX (AP) — Legislation that would fulfill Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey’s plan to boost school safety is expected to include $11 million for additional school police officers, but faces an uphill climb given bipartisan opposition to different parts of the plan.
Draft copies of the proposal from the Republican governor show just a $2 million boost to the current $12 million in state spending for school resource officers. But Ducey spokesman Daniel Scarpinato said that is expected to increase to a total of $23 million.
That would pay for about 110 new officers — nearly double the current number paid for by the state.
The legislation could be introduced this week, but the timing is uncertain as the draft proposal is being revised. The governor’s office rolled out a broad proposal in March in response to the Feb. 14 school shooting in Florida that left 17 dead and triggered protests from students across the nation.
The plan focuses on three areas: Mental and behavioral health resources at schools, restricting gun access for those barred from owning weapons or who show a threat to others and new school resource officers and armed volunteers. It does not include a “school marshal” program pushed by Republican legislative leaders that would arm some school employees.
Democrats are pushing for universal firearms purchase background checks, and came out strongly against the measure because it does not include that component.
Jordan Harb, a student who led 15,000-student march to the state Capitol last month to protest gun violence, blasted the proposal. “Stop throwing pennies and empty promises at a problem that demands real funding and real action,” he said in a statement. Harb called for a ban on so-called bump sticks, a major increase in school counselors and universal background checks.
Some Republicans are concerned about new provisions making it easier to remove guns from people deemed a threat by the courts. The new “Severe Threat Order of Protection” provisions allow a legal guardian, law enforcement officer or school official to ask a judge to order a mental evaluation and to remove a person’s firearms.
“The STOP orders are very concerning,” Republican Rep. Anthony Kern said Wednesday. “My concerns would be potentials for abuse in filing those STOP orders.”
Kern said there’s no definition of what would merit such an order and he’s concerned about abuses and how someone cleared can erase the court case from their record.
“I want it completely off their record if a judge finds them competent at any step of the way,” Kern said. “Once their guns are returned, if their guns are taken away, I want that off their record. People can go through hard times and make some poor choices and say some poor things and I don’t want it held against them.”
Scarpinato acknowledged the opposition from both sides of the aisle, but argued that it is a common-sense package that is balanced between protecting rights and making school safer.
“As with any good legislation the extremes may find issues with it,” Scarpinato said. “But I think this is a mainstream plan that addresses the issue we’ve seen and does so in a way that protects the 2nd Amendment rights of Arizonans and makes sure our schools are safe.”
Republican Rep. Kelly Townsend took offense at that characterization, saying it implied she may not be reasonable or want to find solutions to school violence. She believes the STOP orders are unconstitutional.
“What we’re doing is taking someone into custody before they’re being adjudicated and giving them a psychiatric examination before a crime has been committed, which is in direct violation of the 4th Amendment of the Constitution,” she said. “And I cannot support that because of my oath.”