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Armed officers returning to Denver high schools

Decision comes on the heels of a shooting at East High School that injured two deans
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Posted at 6:40 PM, Mar 22, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-23 10:58:18-04

Editor's note: Authorities said Wednesday around 8:30 p.m. that a body was found in Park County near the vehicle the shooting suspect was associated with. The identity of the person has not been confirmed. Click here for more.

DENVER — Armed officers will once again be present at Denver Public Schools (DPS) high schools following a shooting at East High School that injured two deans, Superintendent Dr. Alex Marrero announced.

Officers will return to all high school campuses beginning Thursday and will remain through the end of the school year, Marrero said in a letter to the DPS community.

The DPS Board of Education said in a statement it supports Marrero's decision.

"The Board of Education supports the decision of Superintendent Marrero to work in partnership with local law enforcement to create safer learning spaces across Denver Public Schools for the remainder of this school year," the statement reads. "In addition, we will continue to work collaboratively with our community partners including law enforcement and our local & state legislature to make our community safer."

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock praised the return of armed officers in a statement.

“Following the shootings at East High School today, Denver Public Schools Superintendent Alex Marrero and I jointly agree that the safety of students and the public require deployment of police officers assigned to the high school for the remainder of the school year. I encouraged and strongly support the Superintendent’s decision to bring police officers back to DPS high schools, and I’ve directed Chief Thomas to support this effort and deploy our officers accordingly in coordination with the school district," Hancock said.

Wednesday's shooting comes weeks after 16-year-old Luis Garcia was shot near East High School. He succumbed to his injuries 17 days later.

A group of Garcia's friends and classmates spoke out at a Denver City Council meeting on February 21, calling for more school safety measures — including the return of school resource officers (SROs).

SROs were removed from Denver Public Schools campuses ahead of the 2020-2021 school year after the Board of Education unanimously voted to end its relationship with the Denver Police Department.

An open records request obtained by Chalkbeat revealed Denver Public Schools (DPS) found a record number of weapons on school property last school year.

According to school data, during last school year, 200 weapons, including 13 guns and 28 fake guns, were found on DPS property, which is five times the number of weapons found during the 2018-2019 school year.

Denver School Board Vice President Auon'Tai Anderson led the charge in 2020 to end the relationship with Denver PD after studies showed that Black and Latino students were disproportionately disciplined, ticketed and arrested by officers on campus. Last month, he told Denver7 bringing SROs back to DPS campuses is out of the question.

"SROs will not be coming back to the Denver Public Schools," Anderson said at the time. "Although we must have a working relationship with our law enforcement, that does not mean they need to be physically present within our building. Denver Public Schools has a robust department of safety that is both present in our schools and armed patrol that can respond to our schools in minutes if anything were to happen."

Former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb expressed the need to bring back school resources officers.

“Police need to be put back in schools. SROs need to be put back in school,” Webb told Denver7 on Wednesday.

Webb said he told Anderson that this policy is not acceptable and believes the issue will be less divisive after Wednesday’s shooting.

“I understand what (Anderson) was trying to do, but it’s not working,” he said.

Anderson said in a message to Denver7 that he would make comments at a board meeting on Thursday, as he was recovering from surgery.

Stacey Hervey, an adjunct criminal justice professor at Metropolitan State University of Denver who also teaches in DPS, said she feels many students do not feel safe at school and that SROs could potentially help.

“I think when school resource officers are used appropriately, they can prevent crime,” Hervey said.

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