MISINFORMATION: SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT
A recent letter to the editor criticized President Barack Obama for his "skepticism" about the National Rifle Association's "proposal to put armed guards in schools," following the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
The writer claimed there is a precedent -- hailing from Obama's very own Democratic Party. President Bill Clinton in 1998 announced a $60 million initiative to put police officers in schools. Run by the Department of Justice's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), the program was intended to "protect school children," according to the letter writer.
This writer has a point, but he's only half right. There was indeed a COPS in Schools program initiated in 1998 by former President Clinton. But, according to stories from the time, the intent was far different from having an armed guard for children's protection.
"Having officers in schools is not just about safety," said COPS Office Director Joseph E. Brann in a press release from October 15, 1998. "Law enforcement officers can serve as mentors to students, build respect for the police profession, and teach students everything from substance abuse prevention to the principles of law enforcement."
The initiative was part of Clinton's plan to add 100,000 officers across the country.
Waterville, Maine, apparently served as a model. In March 10, 1995, the Bangor Daily News carried a story about the city council approving a full-time police officer for the school beat. "The officer's priorities will be speaking with the kids, talking about peer pressure, drugs and alcohol," the paper quoted Waterville's deputy police chief, John Massey.
At the time, Clinton noted, "schools are still among the safest places for America's young people." It's sad to read that now, in light of the Newtown, Conn., events and other school shootings.
Ever submitted a letter to the editor and wondered why it wasn’t published? Sometimes – not always – it’s because Newsday’s research revealed that the information in the letter wasn’t quite accurate. So, the letter disappears into a void, which may leave writers wondering what happened. That's why we're introducing this regular feature, “Misinformation,” on our blog -- to try to set the record straight about a wrong fact or impression.