Three northeast Queens schools aren’t losing cops that had been stationed there.
“I know that there was a lot of fear out there in regards to the three high schools losing their officers,” 111th Precinct Community Affairs Officer John Erdman said at the District 26 legislative breakfast last Friday. “But since day one of Capt. [John] Hall becoming the new commanding officer of the 111th Precinct, he’s worked very hard at making sure that’s not going to happen.”
The three schools in question are Francis Lewis, Bayside and Benjamin N. Cardozo high schools.
“We’re working hard at keeping you safe, your children safe and everyone safe,” Erdman added.
Many in the Francis Lewis community had been upset by the NYPD moving Sgt. Raul Espinet, who had worked at the school for years, to a different position.
The New York Post published a story about the situation, saying Espinet’s position was being eliminated. And FLHS PTA Co-president Linda Lovett spoke about the issue on “Fox & Friends” and started a petition to get a police officer back at the school.
Erdman told the Chronicle that each of the officers will be working “in and around” the school that they are assigned to, just like their positions previously entailed. According to the community affairs cop, the new officer at Francis Lewis is not Espinet.
The NYPD’s press office said that the three District 26 schools didn’t lack officers at any point.
“There has always been a police officer assigned to those schools and [that] will continue moving forward,” a spokesman said. “The confusion came when one officer assigned to Francis Lewis High School transferred to another unit.”
After the Chronicle asked the NYPD which other schools in the city have cops assigned to them, a spokesman said the department does “not get into specifics on which schools have uniformed members assigned.”
Although school safety agents are assigned to every city Department of Education school, they aren’t armed like police officers are.
For Lovett and other concerned parents at the school, the NYPD’s deciding to not delete the officers’ positions is a big win.
“It is wonderful,” she said in an email. “I am so happy the three schools are getting designated officers.”
Before the decision to retain the officers was made, Lovett had been very frustrated about how Espinet was transferred from Francis Lewis.
Pointing to the ongoing national conversation about school safety resulting from the recent massacre at a Florida high school, she had told the Chronicle that the situation amounted to the city “dropping the ball.”
After the belief Espinet’s position had been deleted spread, Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing) announced that he was “drafting legislation that will require a full-time police officer at our most overcrowded schools.”
Even though the situation at Francis Lewis High School — which Koo represents — has been resolved, a spokesman for the councilman said there are no plans to stop drafting the bill or give it up as a priority.
“We’ll stay with it for the time being,” said Koo spokesman Scott Sieber. “If it’s determined that there’s no need for it, we’ll take it from there.”
In response to the news that the schools wouldn’t be without designated cops assigned to them, state Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky (D-Flushing) praised the 111th Precinct’s new commanding officer.
“He’s off to a good start,” said the lawmaker, a member of the Senate’s Education Committee and former high school teacher.
Stavisky also said she believes that cops should have guns — not teachers, whom some national leaders including the president have suggested arming.
“The police are trained and they know what to do,” she said. “And they will react the way they’ve been trained to react.”