While the nation calls for more security at schools in the wake of the shooting last month in Florida, the last NYPD officers that were assigned to New York City public schools fulltime have been taken out.
As the 17 victims of the Parkland, Florida school massacre are still being mourned, Sgt. Raul Espinet was removed by the NYPD from the post he held for over a decade at Francis Lewis High School in Fresh Meadows, Queens. Teacher, students and parents are infuriated, with good reason, over the departure of this beloved officer.
Arthur Goldstein, a teacher at Francis Lewis, told The Post, “My colleagues think it’s outrageous — and really stupid. We’re not enthusiastic about arming teachers, but we liked having a cop around.”
According to the NYPD, the position that Espinet held was eliminated because in Mayor de Blasio’s new community policing units, schools will be visited by cops who are already patrolling the area. While all school have unarmed safety agents permanently stationed.
Backed in the 1990s, the practice of having armed police in schools, which was previously common, began waning. With the gradual elimination of all, except the one, Espinet, at Francis Lewis, which is one of the biggest high schools in the city. Parents told The Post that it was only recently that the nearby Bayside and Benjamin Cardozo high schools lost their full-time NYPD officers.
NYPD spokesman Lt. John Grimpel said, “I’m not aware of any other school with a full-time police officer assigned to it.”
The change is being protested by parents of the overcrowded Queens school that is stuffed with over 4,400 students.
Last week a petition was launched by the school’s PTA, which said, “The community officer is in no way an acceptable replacement.”
PTA co-president Linda Lovett told The Post that in just two days their petition demanding that the NYPD and city Department of Education bring back an armed cop to Francis Lewis, received over 1,000 signatures.
Lovett told The Post, “It’s ridiculous. All over the country they are telling you ‘arm the teachers, get an officer in your school.’ New York City had a designated officer and they are actually cutting the program . . . they are making us less secure. You are talking about 5,000 people in a one-block radius, and you’re telling me you can’t designate one officer?”
According to The Post, “Students, parents and teachers say the school is generally safe and that fights are rare, but the Parkland shooting and one teenager’s recent online threat against Francis Lewis HS have put them on high alert… Espinet was a constant presence, both in the hallways and outside the building, according to staffers and students. He made sure doors were locked and busted kids for smoking. ‘He knew what was happening,’ said Phyllis Leibowitz, an English teacher who served 16 years as a dean. ‘Kids told him things . . . They would give him a heads up, and he would handle it before it happened.’ Espinet regularly attended school meetings and made suggestions on how to make the school safer, staffers said. He also spoke to classes about careers in law enforcement and took troubled kids under his wing.”
Many said that the mere presence of Espinet was a “deterrent” for crime, and his absence raises concerns that bad behavior may now be invited.
By Rachel Shapiro