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Funding Police for Newtown Schools: 'I Think the Town Will Do What's Right'

At Tuesday's Police Commission meeting, chair Paul Mangiafico said he's committed to SROs for every school in Newtown.

 

The 2013-2014 Newtown Police Department budget proposal was drafted before the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, which spiked overtime pay for officers and drove public demand for safer schools. It will result in a significant impact on the town's bottom line, say officials, but emails from parents show many believe it's worth it.

One safety measure Police Commission Chairman Paul J. Mangiafico says town officials won't budge on is having a school resource officer (SRO) in every school. Currently, Newtown has SROs at Reed Intermediate School, Newtown Middle School and Newtown High School.

"The safety of the school children should never ever be related to an accounting issue, and I think the town will do what's right," Mangiafico said during Tuesday night's police commission meeting.

The Board of Selectmen will present a town budget with all of the proposed additions to the Board of Finance at a date to be announced.

Mangiafico said First Selectwoman Patricia Llodra is "anxiously awaiting" the completion of a comprehensive report from the town's Security Committee outlining what's needed to improve school security.

Chief Michael Kehoe said the committee is meeting once a week and discussing topics ranging from SROs, critical infrastructure and buildings to cameras and procedures.

'Whatever It Takes'

Commissioner Joel Faxon said "conservatively" he has received at least 30 emails, with "the vast majority from people with children in the schools," expressing unanimous support for SROs in every school — with some asking for two SROs in each school.

At a meeting of the Head O' Meadow PTA last week, parents voted 33-0 in favor of a resolution asking for at least two SROs at the school. Last week, parent Donna Lorenz told the Board of Education SROs -- especially in pairs -- were a must for schools.

"The only thing that stopped that guy that day was when the two Newtown police burst in the building," she said at Thursday's Board of Education meeting. "You all know that."

Another parent, Carla Barzetti, agreed.

"The so-called experts determined we don’t need more than one armed guard," she said at Tuesday's Board of Education meeting, referring to experts who met with the Security Committee. "Have they taken into account that schools aren’t just buildings where people enter at 9 a.m. and leave at 5 p.m.? [T]he cemeteries are full of people who let experts tell them what to do."

Parents, including those at Head O' Meadow, have pledged to stand behind the town if costs prove controversial.

"The expression of support for the town, I think, is extraordinary," Faxon said. "Some are saying, 'Whatever it takes, we'll do it.'"

"I think some members of the Safety Committee are getting the same emails," Kehoe said. "And I'm sure it isn't lost on them."

Nevertheless, he said town officials are looking into whatever grants, gifts or contingencies may be available to offset budget costs.

Commissioner Brian Budd pointed out that Newtown's police force is already down two officers and one civilian employee — positions lost over the past few years.

The tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School increases officers' workload even more and about a dozen officers that were initial responders to the scene are suffering from post traumatic stress disorder because of it. As of Tuesday night, Kehoe said five officers are out with PTSD.

Police Union President Scott Ruszczyk favors having police officers in every school, but would rather have officers chiefly for security, rather than SROs.

"I'm not a big fan of an SRO in the schools," Ruszczyk said. "An SRO has other responsibilities. I want an officer whose job is to protect the kids, not teach. Let the teachers teach."

"We'll never be able to prevent them 100%," he said of incidents like Dec. 14. "But there are things we can do to reduce them, and having police officers in every school is a good start."

yoda February 06, 2013 at 11:25 AM
This is differently a step in the right direction! Thank you Chief Kehoe for being one of the first Officers at SHS that day, had you and the other officers (that know by name) not shown up as quickly as you all did, those numbers would have been larger!!!!!!
Thomas Crafts February 06, 2013 at 01:31 PM
Our town officials are really bad with money.
Jim Galda February 06, 2013 at 01:34 PM
My love and thanks to the police!!!God bless all of you.Why don't we do what North Branford passed and hire retired police .It may save money and you would have more than one armed professional in schools.One armed in each school may not solve the problem if this were to happen again.We should investigate what North Branford solutions are.They had an overwhelming response of retirees for the positions offered.My 7 year old was in the school that day.
yoda February 06, 2013 at 06:07 PM
Pending our policy on hiring, in order to carry a weapon you must be certified under Newtown guide lines, which would warrant renewed certifications which will lead them to the academy. Not many 60 years olds attending the police academy these days.
Mr D. February 06, 2013 at 06:14 PM
I've read several articles about towns and cities doing this all over the country. Plenty of still-young, retired cops and state troopers looking to supplement their retirement income.
Thomas Crafts February 06, 2013 at 06:25 PM
Not many cops retiring at 60, they all go in their 40's.
yoda February 07, 2013 at 12:37 AM
Thomas, I don't think I have ever met a 40 year old retired cop!!

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