Bankole: Chief Craig dead wrong on arming teachers
It can be easy to dismiss President Trump because he changes his mind and has Twitter outbursts. That’s why his policy preference for arming teachers as a way to stop school massacres like Parkland is being received by some as another Trumpian sinkhole.
But Detroit’s Police Chief James Craig is meeting resistance for supporting Trump’s call to arm some teachers.
Even though the issue is already gaining traction in the Legislature, where bills for teachers to carry guns are being proposed, some Detroit teachers are livid the city’s police chief is putting his stamp on it.
“I understand the concern in the community. I would not want to line up every teacher and give them a gun. That would be irresponsible. All I’m saying is that as an extra layer of security that some teachers who are former police officers and military personnel after going through a rigorous vetting be armed,” Craig told me in an interview Tuesday. “Because most mass shootings happened between four and six minutes, this will create an opportunity to mitigate a threat in a school.”
But Dorothea Williams, a teacher at Cass Technical High School, isn’t convinced.
“Trump’s suggestion recently endorsed by Chief Craig is terrible and grossly irresponsible,” Williams said. “Most teachers struggle to keep up with the work load, test scores, student work and more students than we can often handle. To add a gun to the list of things we have to be responsible for is a violent incident waiting to happen.”
Williams says an urban school district like Detroit has its own set of challenges that shouldn’t be compounded by teachers carrying guns.
“Walking into Cass Tech, like every other Detroit school, is already a reminder to our kids of how violent the world is in that the first thing that the kids are exposed to are security guards, metal detectors and mandatory inspection of bags,” Williams said. “Additionally, there are armed Detroit police officers assigned to our school. I would like to continue to believe, evidenced by our own supportive school climate, that when our students cross that line that separates those who are paid to keep us safe and the place where learning happens, they are allowed a respite from the constant reminders that they could die a violent death.”
Michelle Davis, a teacher at Davis Aerospace Technical High School, agrees.
“I thought Craig’s response was very insensitive,” Davis said. “I was very disappointed to hear that from our police chief because someone in his position should be more thoughtful in his response and know that we already live in a city that has an overabundance of weapons in the streets. The last thing we need is more guns in schools.”
Davis said she supports the Second Amendment, but there has to be a delicate balance. More guns in schools is not the answer.
“Let’s look at how we are lacking in our mental health ability to take care of students. Let’s do some preventive measures because the way to combat violence is not to have more violence.”
David Hecker, president of the Michigan Chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, said its members do not want to be armed.
Craig’s comments not only left me scratching my head in bewilderment, but also made me wonder if he was indirectly looking for new job opportunity with a president who shops for ideational affinity. A ready endorsement from a black police chief from a major black city could score Craig points with Trump.
“I have never spoken with President Trump,” Craig told me before quickly stating that he wouldn’t accept an appointment from Trump. “I have no political aspiration. Politics is not something I’m interested in. I am happy to be doing what I feel is my life’s calling, which is to make our community safe.”
But Craig is also the city’s deputy mayor, a position that raises questions about whether his public pronouncements on hot button issues like teachers carrying guns are also the official position of Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan’s administration.
It would make sense for Duggan to free Craig of that political role and let the chief focus on tackling violent crime.
When I pressed Craig on whether the two roles conflict, he said no.
“My day to day work remains as police chief. The only time the position (deputy mayor) is activated is when there is an emergency or the mayor is out of town,” Craig said. “But it does not negatively impact my job as police chief.”
It’s not the first time Craig has come out in support of the president.
Last year, he publicly praised Trump’s executive order to protect law enforcement, saying, “I think it’s well overdue.”
The presidential directive that Craig backed furthers a narrative peddled by critics of Obama that his administration was soft on crime, if only because he emphasized community policing.
But Craig’s latest act of echoing Trump still leaves some wondering if he is trying to get noticed by the White House.
“My position on firearms predates the Trump presidency. I have been consistent about citizens being armed to reduce crime before Trump became president,” Craig said.
To deal with school shootings, Detroit’s police chief said additional resources are required for mental health and ensuring that those with mental health issues don’t have access to weapons.
“If we don’t fix the problem, we are going to see more tragedies in this country,” he said.
Catch “Redline with Bankole Thompson,” which is broadcast at noon weekdays on Superstation 910AM.