Fontana school police acquire 14 Colt military-style, semi-automatic rifles
by Jim Steinberg
FONTANA - Fontana Unified School District police have bought 14 military-style rifles to protect students and faculty in the event of a shooter on campus.
But the $14,000 purchase of the semi-automatic guns has infuriated some school board members, who say that arming school police officers with rifles represents a huge departure in policy.
The weapons are stored in locked compartments strategically located throughout the district, said Billy Green, chief of the Fontana school district's police.
Board members Leticia Garcia and Sophia Green are concerned that Superintendent Cali Olsen-Binks committed the district to a change in policy with no input from the board - nor the community.
Garcia and Sophia Green said they both have received calls from community members upset with the decision to upgrade the school police department's firepower.
But several parents and students interviewed Wednesday afternoon said they generally approved of the purchase - which came before a gunman shot and killed 20 children and six adults on Dec. 14 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.
But they had reservations, too.
"I'm kind of torn between good and scary," parent Chablis Ruiz said of the decision. "I'm glad they have taken steps to make school a little safer for my two boys, but it bothers me to think about all those bullets that might be fired.
"Every time I hear about a school shooting at work, I worry about my kids. This might help a little," she said in front of Fontana High School.
Lisette Black, 17, a junior, likes the idea of school police with rifles.
"There are a lot of drug addicts around here."
Security is definitely a concern for parents, but some wonder if the guns go too far.
"This is a scary time," Fontana High School parent Judy Gutierrez said. "Everybody wants to take action to make schools safer ... I'm just not sure about this."
School board trustee Leticia Garcia would have liked to have heard more discussion before the district police aquired the weapons.
"I believe that arming the school police with rifles is a policy decision," Garcia said.
And as such, she said the gun purchase should have gone before before the school board for discussion.
Because the purchase was below $25,000, it did not require board approval, Olsen-Binks said.
The Fontana school police department is not the only school police unit to have semi-automatic rifles.
Los Angeles Unified School District's police has had them in school district patrol cars for the past 10 years, Chief Steve Zipperman said Wednesday.
He declined to discuss the number of rifles the department has, but did say many are an earlier version of the Colt semi-automatic rifle purchased by Fontana.
Joseph Paulino, interim chief for the San Bernardino City Unified School District, said his department's officers have had shotguns in their vehicles for about 10 years and in July acquired four semi-automatic rifles, made by Bushmaster, which are similar to what Fontana purchased.
These rifles are to be carried in the vehicles of the department's four sergeants, he said.
San Bernardino's plan is to purchase, over a three-year period, .223-caliber rifles for the department's 20 remaining officers.
But there are other measures to protect students, which could have been pursued instead of the purchase of rifles, Garcia said.
If the powerful rifles are ever used, there could be unintended injuries to innocent students or staff, as its bullets penetrate walls.
The concept of buying rifles for Fontana school police officers has been under consideration for at least a year, officials said.
Former FUSD Police Chief William Megenney mentioned it as something that should happen about a year ago.
His replacement, Billy Green, proposed the purchase of the 14 Colt carbines to Olsen-Binks late last year, when enough money to pay for them had accumulated from fingerprint fees charged to prospective employees for background checks.
The order for the rifles went out in October, and they were delivered in early December .
There was no specific incident in Fontana that led to the gun order, Green and Olsen-Binks said.
The Colt LE6940 carbine, which the Fontana district purchased, is a semi-automatic version of the Colt M-4, which is used in combat in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Guns purchased by Fontana police require the trigger to be pulled each time it fires. This differs from the military version, which can be set to fire automatically until it its magazine is empty.
The weapon Fontana school police purchased has a 14-inch barrel - too short for it to be legally sold to civilians.
Fontana's Colt carbines are equipped with metal sights, although it has metal rails along its frame for easy attachment of optical sights, Lasers, a flashlight or other accessories.
Before officers were issued the carbines they were required to take a 40-hour class that included many live-fire drills.
Fontana School Police officer Kyle Crowther had not fired a rifle before this class, he said. He quickly learned to accurately place shots at targets 200 yards away.
Board member Sophia Green is worried that mentally disturbed individuals, knowing that Fontana school police have .223-caliber rifles, will go to more powerful weapons, perhaps in the .30 caliber range, "to try to outgun them."
Instead of spending district resources for more firepower, more effort should be going into helping disturbed students, Green said.
"If a child is having a breakdown, we should see the signs, pull them out of class and get them help," Green said. "We are nowhere near doing all the prevention we can."
No mentally ill person should be gunned down, she said.
Olsen-Binks said that upgrading school police firepower as first responders is part of a broader plan to prepare the district for an active-shooter incident.
Soon there will be training for all employees on how to respond to various dangerous scenarios, she said.
Women in combat OK'd as Panetta removes ban
by Lolita C. Baldor
WASHINGTON — The Pentagon is lifting its ban on women serving in combat, opening hundreds of thousands of front-line positions and potentially elite commando jobs after generations of limits on their service, defense officials said Wednesday.
The changes, set to be announced Thursday by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, will not happen overnight. The services must now develop plans for allowing women to seek the combat positions, a senior military official said. Some jobs may open as soon as this year, while assessments for others, such as special operations forces, including Navy SEALS and the Army's Delta Force, may take longer.
The services also will have until January 2016 to make a case to that some positions should remain closed to women.
The groundbreaking move recommended by the Joint Chiefs of Staff overturns a 1994 rule prohibiting women from being assigned to smaller ground combat units.
Officials briefed The Associated Press on condition of anonymity so they could speak ahead of the official announcement.
There long has been opposition to putting women in combat, based on questions of whether they have the necessary strength and stamina for certain jobs, or whether their presence might hurt unit cohesion.
But as news of Panetta's expected order got out, members of Congress, including the Senate Armed Services Committee chairman, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., announced their support.
“It reflects the reality of 21st century military operations,” Levin said.
Panetta's move comes in his final weeks as Pentagon chief and just days after President Barack Obama's inaugural speech in which he spoke passionately about equal rights for all. The new order expands the department's action of nearly a year ago to open about 14,500 combat positions to women, nearly all of them in the Army. Panetta's decision could open more than 230,000 jobs, many in Army and Marine infantry units, to women.
In addition to questions of strength and performance, there also have been suggestions that the American public would not tolerate large numbers of women being killed in war.
Under the 1994 Pentagon policy, women were prohibited from being assigned to ground combat units below the brigade level. A brigade is roughly 3,500 troops split into several battalions of about 800 soldiers each. Historically, brigades were based farther from the front lines and they often included top command and support staff.
The necessities of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, however, propelled women into jobs as medics, military police and intelligence officers that were sometimes attached — but not formally assigned — to battalions. So while a woman couldn't be assigned as an infantryman in a battalion going out on patrol, she could fly the helicopter supporting the unit, or move in to provide medical aid if troops were injured.
And these conflicts, where battlefield lines are blurred and insurgents can lurk around every corner, have made it almost impossible to keep women clear of combat.
Still, as recent surveys and experiences have shown, it will not be an easy transition. When the Marine Corps sought women to go through its tough infantry course last year, two volunteered and both failed to complete the course. And there may not be a wide clamoring from women for the more intense, dangerous and difficult jobs — including some infantry and commando positions.
In the Navy, however, women have begun moving into the submarine force, with several officers already beginning to serve.
Two lawsuits were filed last year challenging the Pentagon's ban on women serving in combat, adding pressure on officials to overturn the policy. And the military services have been studying the issue and surveying their forces to determine how it may affect performance and morale.
The Joint Chiefs have been meeting regularly on the matter and they unanimously agreed to send the recommendation to Panetta earlier this month.
A senior military official familiar with the discussions said the chiefs concluded this was an opportunity to maximize women's service in the military. The official said the chiefs of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps laid out three main principles to guide them as they move through the process:
|-That they were obligated to maintain America's effective fighting force.
-That they would set up a process that would give all service members, men and women alike, the best chance to succeed.
-That they would preserve military readiness.
Part of the process, the official said, would allow time to get female service members in leadership and officer positions in some of the more difficult job classifications in order to help pave the way for female enlisted troops.
Women comprise about 14 percent of the 1.4 million active military personnel. More than 280,000 women have been sent to Iraq, Afghanistan or to jobs in neighboring nations in support of the wars. Of the more than 6,600 who have been killed, 152 have been women.
The senior military official said the military chiefs must report back to Panetta with their initial implementation plans by May 15.
Changing the rules for a potential future draft would be a difficult proposition. The Supreme Court has ruled that because the Selective Service Act is aimed at creating a list of men who could be drafted for combat — and women are not in combat jobs — American women aren't required to register upon turning 18 as all males are.
If combat jobs open to women, Congress would have to decide what to do about that law.
North Korea threatens third nuclear test, more rocket launches
SEOUL: North Korea's top governing body warned on Thursday that the regime will conduct its third nuclear test in defiance of UN punishment, and made clear that its long-range rockets are designed to carry not only satellites but also warheads aimed at striking the United States.
The national defence commission , headed by the country's young leader, Kim Jong-un, denounced Tuesday's UN Security Council
resolution condemning North Korea's long-range rocket launch in December as a banned missile activity and expanding sanctions against the regime. The commission reaffirmed in its declaration that the launch was a peaceful bid to send a satellite into space, but also clearly indicated the country's rocket launches have a military purpose: to strike and attack the United States .
The commission pledged to keep launching satellites and rockets and to conduct a nuclear test as part of a "new phase" of combat with the United States, which it blames for leading the UN bid to punish Pyongyang . It said a nuclear test was part of "upcoming" action but did not say exactly when or where it would take place.
"We do not hide that a variety of satellites and long-range rockets which will be launched by the DPRK one after another and a nuclear test of higher level which will be carried out by it in the upcoming all-out action, a new phase of the anti-US struggle that has lasted century after century, will target against the US, the sworn enemy of the Korean people," the commission said, referring to North Korea
by its official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
"Settling accounts with the US needs to be done with force, not with words, as it regards jungle law as the rule of its survival," the commission said.
It was a rare declaration by the powerful commission once led by late leader Kim Jong-il and now commanded by his son. The statement made clear Kim Jong-un's commitment to continue developing the country's nuclear and missile programs in defiance of the Security Council, even at risk of further international isolation.
North Korea's allusion to a "higher level" nuclear test most likely refers to a device made from highly enriched uranium, which is easier to miniaturize than the plutonium bombs it tested in 2006 and 2009, said Cheong Seong-chang, an analyst at the private Sejong Institute in South Korea. Experts say the North Koreans must conduct further tests of its atomic devices and master the technique for making them smaller before they can be mounted as nuclear warheads onto long-range missiles.
The US State Department
had no immediate response to Thursday's statement. Shortly before the commission issued its declaration, US envoy on North Korea Glyn Davies urged Pyongyang not to explode an atomic device.
"Whether North Korea tests or not, it's up to North Korea. We hope they don't do it. We call on them not to do it," he told reporters in Seoul after meeting with South Korean officials. "It will be a mistake and a missed opportunity if they were to do it."
Davies was in Seoul on a trip that includes his stops in China and Japan for talks on how to move forward on North Korea relations.
South Korea's top official on relations with the North said Pyongyang's nuclear and missile development is a "cataclysm for the Korean people," and poses a fundamental threat to regional and world peace. "The North Korean behavior is very disappointing," unification minister Yu Woo-ik said in a lecture in Seoul, according to his office.
North Korea claims the right to build nuclear weapons as a defence against the United States, its Korean War foe.
The bitter three-year war ended in a truce, not a peace treaty, in 1953, and left the Korean Peninsula divided by the world's most heavily fortified demilitarized zone. The US leads the UN Command that governs the truce and stations more than 28,000 troops in ally South Korea, a presence that North Korea cites as a key reason for its drive to build nuclear weapons.
For years, North Korea's neighbors had been negotiating with Pyongyang on providing aid in return for disarmament. North Korea walked away from those talks in 2009 and on Wednesday reiterated that disarmament talks were out of the question.
North Korea is estimated to have stored up enough weaponized plutonium for four to eight bombs, according to scientist Siegfried Hecker, who visited the North's Nyongbyon nuclear complex in 2010.
In 2009, Pyongyang declared that it would begin enriching uranium, which would give North Korea a second way to make atomic weapons.
North Korea carried out underground nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009, both times just weeks after being punished with UN sanctions for launching long-range rockets.
In October, an unidentified spokesman at the national defence commission claimed that the US mainland was within missile range. And at a military parade last April, North Korea showed off what appeared to be an intercontinental ballistic missile.
Satellite photos taken last month at a nuclear test site in Punggye-ri, in far northeast North Korea, showed continued activity that suggested a state of readiness even in winter, according to analysis by 38 North, a North Korea website affiliated with the Johns Hopkins
School for Advanced International Studies.
Another nuclear test would bring North Korea a step closer to being able to launch a long-range missile tipped with a nuclear warhead, said Daniel Pinkston, an analyst with the International Crisis Group.
"Their behavior indicates they want to acquire those capabilities," he said. "The ultimate goal is to have a robust nuclear deterrent."
NYPD Testing New Gun Scanner Device as Crime-Fighting Tool
High-tech scanner detects concealed weapons under clothing
by C. Zawadi Morris
The controversial NYPD stop-and-frisk tactic used to uncover concealed weapons soon may be rendered unnecessary, if a high-tech scanner device proves an effective alternative, reported The New York Daily News.
The new technology is a machine that reads terahertz and can detect guns.
The device, which is small enough to fit in a police vehicle or can be installed on a street corner, allows police to view concealed weapons from a distance through a person's clothing.
“If something is obstructing the flow of that radiation, for example a weapon, the device will highlight that object,” NYC Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly explained on Wednesday.
The department will begin testing the device's portability and effectiveness on the street.
“We still have a number of trials to run before we can determine how best to deploy this technology,” said Kelly. “But we're very pleased with the progress we've made over the past year.”
Oakland hires former Los Angeles police chief Bill Bratton as consultant
by the Associated Press
OAKLAND (AP) -- Despite hundreds voicing opposition, the Oakland City Council early Wednesday overwhelmingly approved hiring former New York City police commissioner and Los Angeles police chief Bill Bratton as a police consultant.
The council's 7-1 vote shortly after 2 a.m. came after a nine hour-plus meeting that included more than four hours of public comment against and in favor of the regarded international expert known for reducing crime and improving community relations with police.
Police Chief Howard Jordan and Mayor Jean Quan say high-profile Bratton is expected to help develop a crime-fighting plan with community input for the city that last year had its violent crime rate jump 23 percent and 131 homicides, the highest total since 2006.
And a majority of the council agreed with the chief and the mayor-- despite the scores of vocal objections -- and formally approved a $250,000 contract for Bratton's expertise. Their decision was met with choruses of boos and chants including "shame on you!"
"I'm going to support our police chief, that's his business," newly elected Council Member Noel Gallo said. "He is in the law enforcement business. I am not. Council members are not and we're not experts. I'm going to rely on him."
But many at the meeting expressed outrage, worried Bratton will suggest a controversial stop-and-frisk policy. The practice allows police to stop, question and pat down anyone who appears suspicious.
Critics say that it could lead to widespread racial profiling and civil rights violations.
"We keep talking about solving crime, but we're not talking about what causes crime," said Cat Brooks, a longtime community organizer who said she lived in Los Angeles when Bratton was that city's police chief.
"Poverty causes crime, hunger causes crime, isolation and having a poor education causes crime," Brooks said. "Bratton is not going to solve any of those problems. He is not going to end violence in Oakland."
Council Member Desley Brooks, the lone dissenting vote, echoed similar sentiments.
"A vote against this contract tonight is not about not being serious about crime. It's about we need to do the real work. The real work to address crime in this community," she said.
Bratton, who is expected to start next month, will be joining noted police strategist Bob Wasserman, head of the Boston-based Strategic Policy Partnership, who also has consulted many of the nation's biggest cities on policing.
They will report to Jordan, Quan and City Administrator Deanna Santana. Wasserman, who began in September, has already been conducting a "top-to-bottom" review of the department.
Bratton was New York's police commissioner from 1994 to 1996 and the Los Angeles police chief from 2002 to 2009. He's widely credited with significantly reducing crime in both cities by double-digit percentages. In Los Angeles, he focused on community policing and worked to resolve tensions between officers and minority communities.
He is credited with co-creating Compstat, the innovative crime-mapping system used in Oakland that uses computer data to direct police to specific high-crime areas. Police in neighboring San Francisco credit the system with helping that city reach near-record-low crime levels.
But Bratton also helped implement the New York City's controversial stop-and-frisk policy that experts say helped overall crime dropped dramatically.
Bratton defended the measure during an interview with KPIX-TV last week.
"I'm sorry that any police department in America that tries to function without some form of stop and frisk, or whatever terminology they use, is doomed to fail," Bratton said. "For any city to say they don't do stop and frisk, I'm sorry, they don't know what the hell they're talking about."
Before approving Bratton's contract Wednesday, the Oakland City Council added an amendment stating that policies from the consultants will not allow for any racial profiling.
"The reason why I'm not afraid of a boogeyman called Bratton is that we have tremendous community oversight," new Council Member Lynette Gibson McElhaney said.
Bratton's hiring was also supported by many local religious leaders as dozens from their congregations attended the lengthy meeting.
Bishop Bob Jackson of Acts Full Gospel Church, who has publicly demanded that Quan urge Gov. Jerry Brown to declare Oakland a state of emergency because of the escalating violence, is among the supporters.
"If Bill Bratton can bring the kind of help that our police department needs to make our streets safer so that black boys and brown boys are not dying in our streets anymore, than I say 'Amen,"' Jackson told KTVU-TV.
But Cat Brooks, the community organizer, ripped the council and accused them of trying to cause division between the church and community over Bratton's hiring.
"We need a comprehensive plan to address crime in Oakland that goes beyond the police and the council, that includes the community and every single voice in here, including those who are actually in these streets... suffering," she said.
Letter to the Editor
Time to Take a Stand Against Violence
To the Editor:
It is with sad and heavy hearts that we begin this New Year due to the horrific event that took place in Newtown just over a month ago. Our most sincere condolences go out to those who lost so much on that December day—to the families whose loved ones were senselessly taken from them, to the survivors who will forever grapple with what they endured that day, to the first responders who had to witness what none of us even want to think about, and to everyone throughout our communities as we struggle to find our footing again in the aftermath of this tragedy.
But, it is also with a renewed sense of purpose that we remain, more determined than ever, to continue our long-standing commitment of working to end the violence.
As the area's sole expert provider of domestic and sexual violence victim services, we are keenly aware of the fact that the very first murder committed on that horrible day was a domestic violence homicide—a son shot and killed his mother. Just a week or so before this event, a man shot and killed his wife in New Fairfield. Every day and night, our hotlines ring and our responding certified staff and volunteers listen to account after account of frightening, often unspeakable domestic and sexual violence crimes being perpetrated on adults and children who live within our communities.
Day after day our prevention educators are out in our communities—in the schools and at the university, at area businesses and social, service and civic organizations and faith communities, at area hospitals and police departments—anywhere and everywhere offering our age-appropriate curricula to audiences from pre-school through senior citizens with the goals of reducing the risks of victimization and preventing the perpetration of abuse, addressing the societal roots of violence and ensuring sensitive response to victims as well as increasing collaboration with the community safety net of victim services.
We have been doing this work since our founding in 1975 and we will continue this work until violence becomes as unacceptable as drinking and driving has become in today's world.
I find no comfort in knowing that people are now zeroing in on some of what we at the center have been saying for years—they are focusing on the influence that violent video games may have had in this event, or exploring the possibility of bullying or other red flag behaviors that may have occurred—because for those of us steeped in this work each and every day, it seems that there always has to be a tragic event before people become aware of and mobilized to do something about the violence that is all around us.
My hope however, is that THIS TIME the shock and outrage, the desire to make sure such an event cannot and will not ever happen again will not fade as quickly as it so often has in the past. My hope is that THIS TIME, we will all stand up against the violence because I truly believe that together we can and will end it.
Pat Zachman, M.Ed.
Women's Center Of Greater Danbury, Inc.