S tate Senator Simcha Felder, who represents Brooklyn’s Orthodox Jewish community, has successfully navigated a unique path to three terms. Although he was elected as a Democrat, and therefore holds membership in the state’s dominant political party, in the state senate he caucuses with the Republicans, who he feels are more aligned with the community’s values. Eight other breakaway Democratic senators formed a centrist grouping called the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC), and together with Felder and the Republicans, forged a coalition that controls the state’s upper chamber.

Now that mainline Democrats have made it a top priority to regain full control of the state senate, putting immense pressure on wayward centrists to reunite with the core party, Felder has come into the spotlight. He signed a letter in support of the move, but has refused to guarantee that he will caucus with the larger Democratic party if he’s the deciding vote in a split chamber come January 2019.

Felder recently introduced legislation requiring localities, chief among them New York City, to station armed officers in front of schools as protection against mass shootings like the one in Parkland, Florida. Mishpacha sat down with Felder for an interview at his Avenue J district office.

Talk about your initiative to put armed police officers in front of schools.

This is not the first time. I think it’s two years already that we have this effort to bring an armed guard, whether that’s a retired police officer, or a retired military veteran — not just somebody who’s wearing a gun, somebody who has training and expertise on security purposes — to protect our kids by being in front of schools. This is not about having cops on the beat in the schools, where people have different feelings about whether kids should be exposed or not exposed. This is about having an armed guard at the entranceway to a school to protect kids from terrorism or a deranged person coming into the school.

Outside New York City, many school districts have resource officers. Many of them are armed already. The only problem there is that they survey and protect the school — a school could be three or four [square] miles, they’re all over the campus. And the last case, that took place in Florida — the resource officer that’s armed may have been a mile away from the entranceway to the school. We’re talking about making sure that they are at the entranceway to schools, not patrolling the school [grounds], to prevent a terrorist, a predator, or a murderer from entering the school, period.

I do not understand the reluctance to get this done. In Israel and other countries — forget about the entrance to the schools, they have people within the schools. You’ve heard it time and time again — Brinks trucks have two guys with guns accompanying a package of money. Yet you could walk into any public school in New York City, and there are two nice resource officers who are not even armed.

Your bill is about all schools, not necessarily only non-public schools, right?

My emphasis is on the public schools. I would assume that once public schools get this type of protection, then the non-public schools would be eligible as well.

How would that work?

Well, under the current system, many schools have not taken advantage of reimbursement available for some sort of security measures that they were taking. That’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about this being under the auspices of the NYPD, who actually has responsibility for security outside the school anyway. I think there are 1,000 public schools. So the first phase is hiring some 1,000 or 1,500 cops. (Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 700)