SALT LAKE CITY — Law enforcement officers for the Granite School District are carrying AR-15 rifles in an effort to keep kids at school safe.
Parents interviewed by KSL-TV said although they have mixed emotions about it, they would rather have officers equipped to handle an emergency to protect their kids.
“It's kind of scary sending them off to school every morning,” said parent Melissa Stevens. “You never know what's going to happen."
The Granite School District Police Department said it has equipped all officers with the rifles to help parents like Stevens rest assured their kids are safe.
“These weapons are not intended to provide intimidation for anybody but bad guys,” said Granite School District spokesperson Ben Horsley.
According to Police Chief Randy Johnson, the rifles are no different than a shotgun. However, officials feel the weapons will help keep kids a lot safer in an emergency event.
If we don't get in and stop the shooter, more people are going to die. It's called rapid response.
–Police Chief Randy Johnson
"This has a single projectile that is very accurate, and that's why we issue them to our officers,” Johnson said.
Since Columbine, law enforcement agencies have had to change the way they protect schools to get in as quickly as possible.
"If we don't get in and stop the shooter, more people are going to die,” Johnson said. “It's called rapid response."
The AR-15s will help in their rapid response time, Johnson said. Parent Rebecca Alexander said she's OK with the police officers having equipment that is of the same or greater caliber than a potential shooter.
“Typically if there is an emergency, they're dealing with someone who has that type of equipment already,” Alexander said.
The department also installed a high-tech camera system in all the Granite District schools that lets them see what's going on in each school from the dispatch center.
"We feel like we can provide a fairly robust response to an armed individual in our schools,” Johnson said.
On top of that, officers are continually trained in emergency response and protocol.
"We are doing everything we can to keep kids safe,” Horsley said. “Parents need to know that the measures that we take are intended to keep kids safe and keep our staff safe and make sure that schools are truly a learning environment.”
Alexander said she feels safer with the added protection.
"I think the more safety and the more precaution they take make me feel better as a parent,” Alexander said.
Some of the rifles came from the 1033 military surplus program that gives police departments extra, unused weapons.