.

Newtown Talks Police Budget Increases: How Much Do We Need?

First Selectman Pat Llodra isn't convinced by a proposed staff increase from the Police Commission, but says she's willing to open a discussion on Chief Michael Kehoe's salary.

 

This article is the second in a Patch series on the future of security in Newtown schools. Read the previous article in this series, and look out for follow-ups examining other variables involved in the decision.

With the 2013-14 town budget before the Board of Finance, now is the time if officials want to put armed security guards in Newtown schools. According to charter, the budget must head to the Legislative Council -- which has no power to place additional items -- by March 14. Before then, the Finance board will also have the opportunity to address another police request -- Chief Michael Kehoe's salary, which is lower than median for the area.

First Selectman Pat Llodra told Patch some options are still on the table after a Thursday night Board of Finance meeting.

"I'm certain we'll be doing something for the schools," said Llodra. "Right now I'm thinking SROs [School Resource Officers, armed police integrated into school routine], but we'll have to see how that discussion plays out. If we do decide to add SROs to the elementary schools, then we'll increase our police force, absolutely."

Assuming SROs make it into the budget, how many are appropriate?

Llodra says it's the Board of Selectmen's position that Newtown's police force remain a "similar size" as they are now. The Board of Police Commissioners have asked for 11 new officers, assuming Newtown decides to use SROs in each school, a move they say will bring them up to date with FBI recommendations. The price tag for the expansion would be about $1.2 million.

"If, in fact, the decision is that we're going to have armed officer in every school, and we still continue to see disability absences, we're going to need 11 officers," said Mangiafico. While numbers have fluctuated, several officers are out on long-term leave as they deal with post-traumatic stress disorder stemming from the events of Dec. 14.

"We don't know what's going to happen with these guys and gals," he said.

Llodra told Mangiafico she hadn't seen "any evidence" the department needed to add 11 regular officers to their ranks. According to her, the department would need to hire, at minimum, four new officers to put one in each school. She asked town officials assembled at the Municipal Center Tuesday to brainstorm.

"What do we do? Can anybody do some out-of-the-box thinking and create a 10-month position so they can focus them on [schools] and not roll them into a force we don't need during the off-times?"

Mangiafico said he'd heard from parents who want two or even more armed officers in schools.

"Somewhere along the line we have to be cautious about what we're saying," he said. "We have to provide a comfortable safety for the kid, but we can't go overboard on it."

Some parents have been adamant in asking for two armed officers -- including the Head O' Meadow PTA, who voted unanimously in support of just that in January. Shortly after that vote, Head O' Meadow parent Donna Lorenz told the Board of Education she wouldn't feel comfortable with anything less.

"Policemen travel with a partner, and there's a reason for that," she said. "The only thing that stopped that guy that day was when the two Newtown police burst in the building ... You all know that."

The town currently has three SROs. The security committee has recommended an SRO for each school, including a new SRO for Reed Intermediate School, where the current SRO also serves as the town's Youth Officer. Security Committee member Richard Gaines said the additional role requires him to split his time significantly.

One area of the police budget Llodra says the town may be willing to examine is Kehoe's salary. The Board of Selectman has planned for a two-year staggered raise that would put Kehoe's salary at $113,815 by July 2014 -- a number, Llodra says, on par with other police chiefs in the area.

Kehoe makes about $102,000 annually, according to the 2012-13 budget numbers. This year's budget has asked for a 5.6% increase, or $108,399. Police originally asked for more.

"We put in what we thought was a rational, reasonably justified salary for the Chief," said commission chair Paul Mangiafico at Tuesday's meeting. The commission had asked for about $112,000. "[The Board of Selectmen] made an offer that under normal times would have been very acceptable. These are not normal times."

At Thursday's Board of Finance meeting, Llodra said she would be willing to go back to the Board of Selectmen to re-open the discussion.

"I don't know what the board will be willing to do, but the Chief is clearly undercompensated," said Llodra. "We'd like to do better for him ... I'm always willing to go back to the board and say, given the events of Dec. 14, should we be do things a little differently? Should we be doing something better, recognizing the extraordinary service and value the Chief adds to our town?"

The Board of Selectmen will meet Monday, March 4. A Board of Finance vote on the budget is schedule for Monday, March 11.

Bob Attanasio March 01, 2013 at 12:07 PM
I am not an expert in police staffing, but I think the assertion that adding 11 SROs automatically means an addition of 11 officers must be challenged. Several weeks ago national statistics on the number of offers required per thousand people in the population was used to suggest that our PD was understaffed. To use national figures, which includes averages for Detroit, NYC, Newark, Chicago, etc has to be a poor metric. There are many factors which must go into this (crime rate, age and demographics, rural vs urban to name a few) and the correct deployment of resources has to be reviewed. If we start with a premise that we are 10% overstaffed already - a safe premise considering every business, non-profit, bureaucracy or other organization I have ever seen is over time 10% overstaffed - then instead of adding 11 officers we are talking about adding 6. We are all doing more with less - family, business, government - and the PD should not be immune to the challenges we all face.
Ray Ruzek March 01, 2013 at 01:15 PM
I think Chief Kehoe does a great job.
Bruce Walczak TheNewtownRooster.com March 01, 2013 at 01:18 PM
The Police and The Chief have done a great job during this crisis. We should also remember to evaluate the entire years performance, and if I recal the articles int he Bee there were some significant moral and leadership issue.
scortconcerned March 01, 2013 at 02:30 PM
I am so sickened by all this....many will not be able to afford to live in Newtown anymore and certainly no one will want to move here. So we can't sell our homes and we cannot afford a 8% tax increase. Really people????
jean sander March 01, 2013 at 02:57 PM
with all of the funds that have so generously been given to our Town, why can't we use some of this money to hire additional security for our schools? We must be realistic about raising taxes for residents that are already overburdened. Jean of Sandy Hook
William March 01, 2013 at 03:07 PM
It's estimated that more than $8,000,000 was donated to the Newtown community after the Sandy Hook shootings. Where is it? Who's in charge of that money? The residents are now overcome with grief and will be for some time. Who is protecting the money? Why isn't that money used to further the security and safety aspects which all are concerned about?
Sam Mihailoff March 01, 2013 at 03:51 PM
Moral concerns...I did not see charges being filed
carlistojoe March 01, 2013 at 04:03 PM
I told my boss, they want to raise my taxes 8% so I need an 8% pay raise just to stay whole. He said, what world are you living in? The town and the board need to find the money in their existing budgets.If Donna Lorenz wants two armed officers at Head O' Meadow, then we need to eliminate two teaching positions there.
Jeff March 01, 2013 at 04:03 PM
Mrs Llodra, thank you for being calm and responsible through all this. You've done a great job and have refrained from making quick decisions that would burden tax payers for many years to come. What exactly is Chiefs Kehoe's plan? Has it been submitted to the Bee and I missed it? Cost of security guards and SRO's included. This is the type of realistic, common sense thinking that this town is so lacking. "All in all, the reserve-officer-training program costs less than $100 per participant, Pierce says, adding that even cash-strapped cities and districts could use this approach." Yes, some will protest, but I also know they won't bring their checkbooks. Others might think how many teachers we could hire, FDK, addressing other needs or actually saving a Million $ + I hope Mr Pierce gets a big raise. Can we recruit him? Here's why. http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/341627/teachers-armed-guards-michigan-jillian-kay-melchior
yoda March 01, 2013 at 04:31 PM
Your JR already hired security guards, I believe 3 are retired Officers, the rest ? JR had no business taken it upon herself without guidance from Chief Kehoe! This was out of impulse!!!
Liz Sortino March 01, 2013 at 04:44 PM
I believe we deserve a police force that is up to FBI recc's....after what we just went thru?? And our police officers have gone above & beyond since 12/14. How is this even a question? Our town needed more officers before 12/14, now we are down a few, and need more for each school.
Fred March 01, 2013 at 06:39 PM
We do not need more police to respond to a non recurring event. All we are being shown is the police cost on the job - how about the added pension costs in the years to come? Police live a lot longer than their time on the job, adding to the police force is a gift in cost that just keeps costing. You are as safe as you were before 12.14 - there is no need for any of this. Maybe have the cops stop by the schools more often randomly if it will make some sleep better. I would love to put a gps on the police we have and see how often they are stationary. I do not knock them for it either - it is still a sleepy hamlet that had one horrible event. More police will only increase cost - not safety. We are still very safe, statistically are degree of safety is tough to improve upon - and their is no need for it...
carlistojoe March 01, 2013 at 06:43 PM
And people were complaining that the cops we have just sit around waiting for people to speed on route 25. Why don't we redeply them to the schools and save money.
Apathetic March 01, 2013 at 07:49 PM
And you know that JR didn't speak with Chief Kehoe? With the other towns wanting their police officers back, what do you think should have happened? Do you have kids in after-school programs? Did you experience that craziness when the security guards weren't there?
Newtown Resident and Teacher March 01, 2013 at 08:38 PM
I think that security guard staffing at the schools is under the superintendent's power, not the chief of police. And as Apathetic mentioned, you can't know that she didn't discuss this with him. The decision to hire additional security guards was explained to the NHS staff as a decision to ensure that there was enough available staff to cover all of the doors that are open in the morning, as well as school activities outside the school day.
Jeff March 01, 2013 at 09:24 PM
Yoda, you seem to be knowledgeable on this subject and I suspect have a police background or experience. Has Chief Kehoe proposed anything in writing that defines what exactly is needed in terms of personnel, resources and dollars to address security in the schools that is available to the public? Irregardless of if the education dept. pays for X and Municipal Y. I'm looking for an overall plan and gross amount. What are your thoughts on Chief Pierce's plan as just one of many options that might also include SRO's? Teachers as Armed Guards in Michigan - Jillian Kay Melchior - National Review Online
yoda March 02, 2013 at 12:56 PM
No one discussed hiring these guards with Kehoe or the Police Commissioners board. That’s a fact. These guard do not carry a gun, sorry kung fu is no match towards a gun. What are the procedures in place if we have another shooter trying to break in to our schools?
bob March 02, 2013 at 04:46 PM
Well said !
yoda March 02, 2013 at 05:29 PM
Ah Leadership issues. Yoda is all over that, as we speak! I have listened to the scanner on that morning and could tell you each of our officers that were there on the scene. Two of our Leaders were not heard throughout the whole recording. I soon found out where they were. I will be addressing this lack of leadership further! Chief Kehoe was a true leader that day!!!!!
Barbara Field March 03, 2013 at 11:26 PM
I don't recall reading anyone mentioning the scenario I ran across below when budgeting for protection for students. A 16-year-old Florida high school student says he was suspended for three days for wrestling a loaded gun away from a teen threatening to shoot. Fox4Now.com reports that the student, who attends Cypress Lake High School in Fort Myers, tackled the 15-year-old suspect on a school bus after he allegedly pointed the weapon at another student. "I think he was really going to shoot him right then and there," said the student, who declined to be identified. According to the referral the student received the following day, he was suspended for his role in an "incident" where a weapon was present and given an "emergency suspension," the station reported. The boy's mother told Fox4Now.com her son was suspended because he refused to cooperate with the investigation, adding that he was scared. The suspected gunman was arrested and charged with possession of a firearm on school property and assault with a deadly weapon without intent to kill, the report states. Sgt. David Valez of the Lee County Sheriff's Office told the station an investigation into the incident is ongoing. School officials declined to a request for comment Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2013/03/03/florida-high-school-student-reportedly-disarms-gunman-gets-suspended/?cmpid=NL_FNTopHeadlines#ixzz2MGKUp09M

Boards

More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something