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California

With Los Angeles schools back open, families can expect to see more police

When Los Angeles Unified schools reopen Wednesday, students, teachers and parents can expect to see more police even though a threat that closed campuses the day before was determined not credible, officials said.

Officials spent Tuesday assessing an emailed threat, and concluded that it was “not credible,” according to Mayor Eric Garcetti. 

Even so, the Los Angeles Police Department is increasing its presence in schools. LAPD will patrol the district more than usual on Wednesday, Police Chief Charlie Beck said at a news conference.

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L.A. Unified School District police officers will wear uniforms for the rest of the week, said their chief, Steven Zipperman. The goal, he said, is to ensure kids “know we’re here to … reduce fear and anxiety.”

LAPD Public Information Officer Mike Lopez said he could not specify how many LAPD officers would be on campuses Wednesday. “We will be sending patrol units pretty much around all the schools,” he said. “What’s it’s going to come down to is our basic police cars ... will be assigned to go by every hour or maybe every other hour to give extra patrol, high visibility around the school area.”

Parents and students were split on how they wanted to see their schools respond.

On Tuesday morning, parent Riti Shimkhada awoke to confusion. Her sister texted her around 6 a.m. to tell her something was going on in the schools, but she didn’t hear from the district, so she turned to the news and learned about the closure before LAUSD contacted her.

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She’s not sure she would change anything at Westwood Charter Elementary, where her child is a student. “I don’t think police are necessary,” she said. “But maybe I would like to see more adult presence. The principal is usually on the yard in the morning, but a little more administrators would be great.”

Most schools have entrances that are watched by either volunteers or unarmed security aides, and visitors must sign in. The district’s high schools each have at least one school police officer. One third of middle schools also have a police officer, and another third have an unarmed safety officer.

Coby Yollis, a senior at John F. Kennedy High School in Granada Hills, said he would not want to see heightened security. “After the investigation is over, if it turns out there’s nothing wrong, putting extra security in the school would only make people feel more in danger,” he said. “It wouldn’t really do any good. It would be a waste of resources.” 

Yollis spent Tuesday with his girlfriend. Although he thought the threat was a hoax from the moment he learned school was canceled, he supported the decision to shut down schools, saying a disruption is better than a tragedy.

Brandon Halverson has children at Beethoven Elementary and Paul Revere Middle School, and he has noticed some lax security. “Parents ... know there are some doors they can sneak into if they’re in a rush,” he said. “That really needs to be addressed.”

He specifically wants more security on a regular basis in the lower grades. “I told my wife I would be more comfortable having an armed guard or patrol officer stationed at every school,” he said. “I know there are officers assigned to high schools, but maybe it’s time they think about assigning them to middle or elementary schools. As a parent, you worry about your kids.”

joy.resmovits@latimes.com

Twitter: @Joy_Resmovits

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Times staff writer Howard Blume contributed to this report.

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