Peoria Public Schools could once again have an armed police force – according to a recommendation by the Illinois Association of School Boards. An armed police force is not something new for the district. From 1971-2014, PPS officers were fully certified and armed.
“What the steps we’re doing is to bring back what we already had,” said Chief Demario Boone, PPS Director of School Safety.
Boone says it makes even more sense to have the officers armed today.
“With school shootings and active assailant issues, we need to make sure we’re safe on that end, but the guns they shouldn’t be looked at as for the students inside the building, its for the threats outside of the building,” said Boone.
Currently, there are about 20 unarmed officers stationed throughout the district. Additionally – each high school (Manual, Richwoods, Peoria High) has one armed Peoria Police officer, contracted from the department. Boone says the return to a fully certified PPS-backed department would allow the district to be pretty much self sufficient.
“If a student makes a mistake or does something, we can do interventions instead of an arrest…so with that police power granted, the district will have more control over those issues,” he added.
If given the green light, the district would first replace the Peoria officers at the high schools with their own certified, armed officers. This would save the district $200,000 a year. But all the officials we spoke with on Monday, including Superintendent Dr. Sharon Kherat, said it is important to remember the switch would not happen overnight.
“Right now we’re actually going very slow to go far, and the idea is maybe to focus on high schools initially, but again this is very early on in the works,” said Kherat.
But before all this could happen, a bill would have to be passed in Springfield allowing the district to have their own armed police force. At this time, the language for the bill is still being drafted.