SAN JOSE (CBS SF) — In the wake of three mass shootings in the U.S. in one week, the San Jose Police Department is launching a pair of new programs, believed to be the first of kind in the Bay Area, aimed at providing a rapid response to mass shootings at schools and public gatherings, called “School Guardian” and “Event Guardian.”
At a press conference in front of police headquarters Thursday, Chief Eddie Garcia expressed urgency and frustration, given the gridlock in Washington over gun law reform, and the start of school in the city next week.
“We can’t wait for legislation to try and fix this issue or problem. Our residents want to know what their police department is doing to save lives,” said Garcia.
The School Guardian Program is comprised of nine teams, each with two officers, to be spread out across the city during school hours, and will specifically handle calls for active shooters.
The specially trained officers will ride in “Guardian Cars” that will be equipped with carbine assault rifles. The Guardian Officers will not take service calls, and will be focused solely on getting to an active shooter scene as quickly possible.
“The quicker we have our men and women engaging a shooter, the more lives are going to be saved, and we’re trying to maximize that as best we can,” said Garcia.
The School Guardian Program will be paid for with $3 million from the department’s overtime budget. The department will reassess the Guardian program’s effectiveness in several months, and city leaders may consider allocating more funding.
Event Guardian will provide a layer of security with the same specially trained and equipped Guardian Officers to public events, but will be assigned on a case-by-case basis. Garcia said organizers can request Event Guard coverage, which will be granted upon review of threat levels, logistics, and the event’s existing security plan. SJPD will provide Event Guardians at no charge to the event.
“We can’t be everywhere. No one can predict when these things will occur. No police department can stop these from occurring, but what we can do is assure our community that we have a plan,” said Garcia.
Garcia declined to discuss specifics about the increased security at this weekend’s 30th annual San Jose Jazz Fest. But said there would be a “large foot print” of uniformed, undercover, and Guardian Officers.
Brendan Rawson, Jazz Fest executive director, said the number of entrances has been reduced to two, and metal detector wands will be used for the first time. Rawson is sympathetic to families having second thoughts about attending the event this weekend.
“Totally understand. That caution and worry is very natural right now, given everything that’s been happening,” said Rawson. “We put a lot of effort into organizing the festival coordinating with the city’s public safety departments to ensure that they’ll have a safe weekend. They can arrive here and feel they’re in a good place.”