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Plainfield police chief wants rifles in safes in high schools

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

After Columbine and other school shootings, police across the country have actively trained for the unthinkable.

One of the observations police have is that a standard issue firearm may not be adequate in quickly stopping a well-armed active shooter.

Plainfield's police chief is proposing that his officers -- those who are regularly assigned inside District 202 high schools -- be allowed to keep an AR 15 Semi automatic rifle under lock and key in their school offices so it is available if the unthinkable were to present itself.

"We as a police department, myself as a parent, we see this as another tool to respond if that worst case scenario does happen," said Chief John Konopek, Plainfield police.

In his written request to Plainfield District 202 officials, Chief Konopek writes, "unfortunately, in today's society, active shooter incidents are no longer something we see on TV. They are reality. "

There is no intelligence, he says, suggesting an imminent threat, but it is about being prepared.

Konopek says the AR 15 gives greater accuracy at a greater range and more stopping power than a sidearm. It would be kept in a gun safe, accessible only by police.

"If there's a shooter in those schools, how do they even get to those guns," said Joy Jacobsen, Plainfield resident.

The proposal is met with resistance by those who believe that it sends overall a very bad message to students and parents and that it has risks of its own.

"What's the likelihood of an innocent party being shot and killed if they do use the gun," said Brian Wilson, Plainfield resident. "I'm just completely opposed to guns in schools at all."

Konopek knew his proposal would stir reaction. He says he'd prefer that the a police rifle in a school sit in a safe for a hundred years and draw dust, but if needed, it's there.

"Apart from being the chief, I'm the parent of two high school aged kids, and so as a parent I would want the law enforcement jurisdiction to have every tool in their toolbox to respond," he said.

This is a fairly new concept. The chief says there is at least one local suburban school district that allows its high school-assigned officer to have a semi-automatic rifle on campus under lock and key. But Plainfield are researching how widespread that practice is.

Plainfield school board members discussed the proposal Monday night but are in the early stages of examining a host of legal questions - largely liability issues - that surround it.

One board member Greg Nichols told ABC7 he can support the concept, but wants to first find the right way to do it.

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