Back to school: Commanding Officer of NYPD School Safety Division talks new protocols, youth employment initiative

NYPD Inspector Kevin Taylor, Commanding Officer of the School Safety Division.
Photo by Dean Moses

With New York City schools back in session, NYPD Inspector Kevin Taylor, commanding officer of the department’s School Safety Division, sat down with amNewYork Metro to discuss new safety protocols and announced a new gateway program to help employ youth and drive down crime across the five boroughs.

Taylor spoke to amNewYork Metro as he visited the Upper West Side’s Independence High School on Friday afternoon to see firsthand the new procedures put into place, which include locked doors, an extensive visitor vetting process, and swift NYPD agent response times. However, establishing these safety nets didn’t come easy, he said.

In order to learn as much as he could about the best ways to protect New York City youth, Taylor toured Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the scene of the 2018 shooting that has the unfortunate distinction of being the deadliest school shooting in American history. There, Taylor said he looked to discover what could have been done differently in order to save lives before implementing that practice in the Big Apple.

“I toured the horror site, watching where the gunman went in, how he was able to go through those doors unlocked — keyword: unlocked,” Taylor said. “That was a big decision that the chancellor had to make was to lock these doors. In New York City, times have changed, locking these doors gives us the opportunity to save lives.”

Inspector Kevin Taylor meets with students. Photo by Dean Moses
Inspector Kevin Taylor meets with students.Photo by Dean Moses

While Taylor believes these security measures are common-sense plans that will unquestionably save lives, there are some parents who disapprove of the initiative, stating that they feel they are being locked out away from their children. The inspector maintains that is not the case, and believes instead that they are creating a more transparent environment.

“We’re not keeping the parents out, that’s not what we’re doing. What we’re doing is we’re saying ‘Okay, who are you and what’s your business in this school?’” Taylor said. “We are not stopping you from seeing your kid, we are stopping the other people who should not be able to see your kid.”

In addition to new entrance policies, schools will also see a combination of school safety agents and police officers join together to patrol school routes in order to ensure children’s safety as they go to and from school. He added that police will also check to see if children are hanging out in parks or in the streets instead of heading to school. For many, there is a fine line between ensuring safety and privacy invasion. amNewYork Metro queried the inspector regarding these concerns.

Inspector Kevin Taylor, Commanding Officer of the School Safety Division stands with officers. Photo by Dean Moses

“It’s a balance. I can’t say it’s not that, it’s a balance. It’s a balance of trying to make sure that we’re not over policing,” Taylor said. “One thing we don’t want to do is over police. We want to make sure that people feel comfortable going to school yet have that sense of confidence that their kids are safe.”

“They want to see us here and these agents know that, our police officers know that,” he went on. “There is a big difference between just being a local police officer and being school safety and because you’re embedded in the school.”

Inspector Taylor also revealed a new agent recruitment program he says will roll out by the end of the year and give youth from every high school in the Big Apple a path to join the NYPD.

According to Taylor, this is an attempt to prevent the high school-to-jail pipeline and instead create a viable pathway to employment. While the Commanding Officer of the School Safety Division promised that a formal announcement is on the horizon, he said after having long-form conversations and meetings with principals and teachers, the goal is to offer newly graduated 18-20-year-olds a seat at the NYPD’s table, as well as a new career path, and in doing so will give youth better opportunities and increased incentives to stay away from crime.

“It will deter crime, not just have a big impact,” Taylor said. “It will deter crime.”