As San Jose students start to pick up the backpacks and schools books, San Jose police are rolling out a new plan to keep them safe.
The department’s new Guardian Program hit the streets Tuesday. The newly formed rapid response team will patrol around schools, ready to respond if someone reports an active shooter.
One of the special teams was active Tuesday, as the East Side Union High School District opened classes, and NBC Bay Area followed along.
The officers with the guardian program have all the tactical gear they might need to confront a gunman.
"So we have our rifles," Officer Carrie Gordon said. "30-round magazines, and several magazines we carry on us."
Gordon and Officer Eliseo Anaya make up one of nine teams patrolling specific zones around the city, primarily school neighborhoods. The program is a direct response to the recent mass shootings across the nation.
"My job is to do the best I can to put my officers in the best position to do what they do best, and that’s save lives," San Jose police Chief Eddie Garcia said.
The officers in the Guardian Program are equipped with heavy firepower. But perhaps their best weapon is having a good rapport with school administrators and meeting students, establishing those relationships that might help prevent a future attack.
"I think it’s a great idea," Lincoln High School Principal Matt Hewitson said. "This is an issue schools across the country are dealing with. And we hope it never happens here. But if it does, we feel confident that we’re trained and ready."
Garcia said he couldn’t wait for lawmakers to change gun laws to improve school safety. So the department relies on officers such as Gordon and Anaya to staff the Guardian Program on their off days and make a little overtime, all with one goal: to make sure children feel safe in their schools.
Over the past week, many parents have expressed support for the program. A few think it might look a little heavy handed.
Garcia said he felt the need to act fast.