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Los Angeles School Police Chief on security after Sal Castro Middle School shooting




Police Officer Jeff Tatum passes through a metal detector at Lew Wallace High School.
Police Officer Jeff Tatum passes through a metal detector at Lew Wallace High School.

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A 12-year-old girl is in custody after a shooting incident at the Sal Castro Middle School near downtown Los Angeles. She's been charged with negligent discharge of a firearm. It is unclear how the girl got the gun but the fact that it made it on to school grounds has put the spotlight on security.

Take Two spoke down with Chief Steve Zipperman, Chief of Los Angeles School Police Department, to talk about the security searches that are currently conducted on LA Unified campuses and how this latest incident will affect them.

Steven Zipperman, Los Angeles School Police Chief
Steven Zipperman, Los Angeles School Police Chief
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Interview Highlights

Historical and current status of California Safe Schools Planning 

Every school in the state of California is required to have some sort of safe school plan. Along with Safe Schools Planning, each district has the opportunity to implement plans they feel would make the school safer and more secure. Back in 1993, there were two incidents at two different high schools in which two students were shot and killed. The then superintendent and the Board of Education decided that they were going to implement some form of random metal detectors, hopefully dissuading students from bringing in firearms. We continue to refine this process to what we believe as the best practices so far. 

How are these researches conducted

School police department is not involved at all in these searches. School administers are the ones that are trained and the ones that are carrying out the search on a daily basis. This is not a law enforcement function. However, we don't have metal detectors like you see in airports or sporting events. The policy is very specific, and it's truly random. Schools are required one time daily, at a random time, to select one class room. Within that classroom, students are randomly selected. 

The effectiveness of random selection 

How do you measure whether the policy is effective? Prior to these wanding policies were put in place, on average we collect about 1000 weapon a year. After 1993, that number went from 1000 to 400 a year, that seems to suggest this policy does deter weapons. 

Sal Castro Middle School going forward

Sal Castro Middle School did not seem to have prominent safety issues as far as issues pertaining to policing. It's not a campus that we see criminal activity occurring everyday. It's always going to be a heighten sense of security after these incidents. However, we need to find out what circumstances prompted these tragedies. One of the things we are going to look at is whether we should always have police presence on campus, another is making sure practices like "wanding" remain in place. But we also want to remind parents to talk to their kids about school and check their backpacks. We remind kids that if they see something, say something. 

Interview has been edited for clarity