Thursday, December 20, 2012

Police in schools food for thought

Some back of the napkin math:

There are 98,817 public schools in the US. The average annual salary of a police officer is $47,500. Applying a liberal 35% factor to fully load the salary for benefits, etc., let's call it $64,000. There are 9 months in the school year.

To put one officer in each public school in the US would cost $4.7 billion per school year. I use one officer as the number because some friends and I uncovered a claim yesterday (not yet confirmed) that having even one armed, trained police officer in a school reduces the chances of a mass shooting to near zero.

For comparison, the entire Transportation Security Administration's (TSA's) annual budget is $8.1 billion. The current Hurricane Sandy relief bill before Congress is for $60.4 billion. The $4.7 billion would have paid for six and a half days of the Iraq War.

As an aside, the annual budget of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) for 2012 was $2.4 billion, half my police in schools number. Many Americans (myself included) believe that it is improper of the government to criminalize drugs or wage a war against them. Few would disagree that is proper for the government to protect schoolchildren from criminals.

My posting the above is not meant to imply it is the definitive solution to the problem of school shootings. It is not even meant to imply that having police in schools is a good idea. I am predisposed towards thinking it is a good idea and certainly think it is a vastly better idea than arming school teachers. I post it mostly to put numbers in perspective as we debate whether certain solutions are good ideas and if others are good ideas but too costly.

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