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Police Commission: Newtown Needs 11 New Officers

At Thursday night's Police Commission meeting, commissioners agreed on a number that would allow police to provide presence at all Newtown schools.

 

To have police presence at all public and private Newtown schools, the department will need to bring 11 new officers into the fold, the Newtown Police Commission agreed at a special meeting Thursday night.

“With each passing week, we begin to get a better feeling of what the future will look like,” said commission chair Paul Mangiafico.

Six of Newtown’s 45 sworn officers are currently dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in December. Some officers are overworked. Overtime is up and the department is still stretched thin, said commissioners.

“It’s taxed us out in so many ways,” said Captain Joe Rios. "On a weekly basis, we may have two officers out or up to seven … That forces the majority of the department to pick up the slack.”

Even before the shooting, the department didn't have as many officers as they should for a town the size of Newtown, according to Chief Michael Kehoe, who said the FBI recommends two officers per 1,000 people. With 11 new officers, the department would have 56 police – a “minimum,” commissioners said, but enough to put one School Resource Officer (SRO) at each school in Newtown, including elementary schools and three private schools. On Thursday, the Board of Education approved a request to police asking for just that. But numerous hurdles remain before the commission can approve the result -- not least the price tag.

“Let’s not let the safety of the students be dictated by accounting.”

Adding a single police officer, equipped and uniformed, to the town’s payroll would increase the budget by about $92,000 per year, commission member Joel Faxon said. The commission’s recommendations also include four new patrol cars and an additional civilian staff member. All told, the price tag would be about $1.2 million.

“Children are children,” Kehoe said. “And we have an obligation to protect everyone in the community. And we will.”

The move acts only as a recommendation to the Board of Selectmen, Board of Finance and Legislative Council. The department has already submitted its budget to the town – a budget that has rapidly become anachronistic in the wake of the shootings. Kehoe said some grant money may eventually become available, but commission members agreed the move is an important step regardless of funding source.

"I don’t think if we should be concerned with where the money’s coming from," said Mangiafico. "We should be concerned to do what’s correct. Let’s not let the safety of the students be dictated by accounting."

At present, two police officers monitor every school in Newtown, and have since the beginning of 2013. But many of those officers are out-of-towners being paid per diem, Faxon said. Commissioner Brian Budd called this measure a “Band-Aid.”

“One day you got an officer from Weston, the next an officer from Easton. Their omnipresence is important, but they don’t know the regular routine.”

“You can’t just go to Monster.com and hire a police officer.”

Another concern: the unlikelihood that 11 officers could actually be brought in within 2013.

“I’ve had any number of people come up and say we ought to get two or three officers on the streets in the next couple weeks,” said Mangiafico. “But most people don’t have any idea what it takes to hire a police officer.” 

Even a single new hire can be a slow crawl for any Connecticut police department, let alone one with circumstances like Newtown. New hires must go through a rigorous process that combines screening, training (both in the state police academy and on the ground) and waiting – all told, a process that takes somewhere in the area of a year.

“You can’t just go to Monster.com and hire a police officer,” Faxon said.

Thanks to economic hardships, the state reduced classes at the police academy, limiting the number of seats available. Then there’s the background checks, which Budd said only one to three of every 10 applicants pass.

“It’s very difficult to get qualified candidates,” he said. “And for our community, we’ll only take qualified candidates.”

For the most part, the department can’t just bring retired officers back in the fold – after three years of inactivity, the process resets itself and even veteran cops would have to repeat the lengthy training process. 

Similarly, the department can’t bring in officers from out-of-state, Kehoe said.

“We could certainly hire officers from other departments [in-state], though,” he said.  “Certainly that’s a better option. You still have to do some things – make sure they’re a good fit, investigate them … So it could still take months.”

“Things have changed in this town.” 

A group of parents who had previously attended the Board of Education's meetings on Security Resource Officers came to register their support. Some, including members of the Head O' Meadow PTA, advocated for at least two SROs at each school, but indicated they would back any measures and schools police felt necessary.

"I hope you outline [additional SROs] as something you’re looking for," said parent Michelle Hankin. "Parents are behind the schools, and behind the police departments."

Mangiafico told the commission he will write letters to town and education officials outlining the requests and their costs. First Selectman Pat Llodra is awaiting reports from the town's security committee.

"She'll be folding everything together," Mangiafico said, "Then they'll see where they go from there."

Commissioners admitted the request may not pass every hurdle necessary to become a reality. But they remain optimistic -- and unwavering.

“Things have changed in this town,” said Mangiafico after the commission reached their decison. “We should be promoting and recommending what we believe is needed. And if those authorities decide they don’t want to do it, they bear that burden.”

Yay Write February 11, 2013 at 12:53 AM
Bruce Walczak you are sleeping at the wheel. You must be the only one that likes JR! Her management style and her lack of respect for the community she serves is pathetic! Just remember she needed a PR consultant because she has no idea how to speak to the public she serves! It was Pat Llodra that lead the community after 12/14 and it's not JR not even close!
Bruce Walczak TheNewtownRooster.com February 11, 2013 at 01:07 PM
it too bad that those who seem to be so critical of Superintendent Robinson also prefer to hide behind false names. I believe this is a time to put the grudges aside and support Pat, Janet, Debbie and the Chief. Let them do their job without being distracted by all this hate.
Joe February 11, 2013 at 04:51 PM
Hey Bruce, that's a good point. But I disagree that people use false names for a specific reason. I bet there are many reasons and all are valid. I don't have a grudge against JR, I just think she's done a bad job and continues to make decisions that are puzzling to say the least. I can point to at least a half dozen items where her actions have directly negatively impacted the town.
Bruce Walczak TheNewtownRooster.com February 11, 2013 at 05:26 PM
We all make mistakes. Some actions that you feel negativley impacted the town others think we right. An example is the range of opinions on the O/O Issue. I believe we hired the superintendent to primarily run the system and educate the children. We give her a low per pupil funding and asked her to do the best she could with those dollars, from the test scores I have seen she has done an outstanding job. Thats my perspective. I appreciate yours.
Donald Borsch Jr. February 12, 2013 at 02:32 PM
Dear Newtown Police Commission: I would happily become one of your public school protectors, with firearms, and I would work for half of whatever you are offering right now. I would work Mon-Fri, morning until afternoon, and would even attend sports activities in the evenings and weekends if needed to provide an armed presence. Happy to do it. I'll send you my DD214 as my qualifications. Cheers!
Michael Cragin February 12, 2013 at 07:53 PM
good lord that is scary.........and .......never mind.......just leave it as scary
AnotherDay February 12, 2013 at 09:54 PM
Newtown does not need 11 new officers. This is completely irrational. This rare event has never happened twice in any community. It will never happen again. For those who respond that they aren't going to take any chances, that's ludicrous. We all take chances everyday. We don't hire armed guards for our homes, even though there is a chance they could get broken into. Do you think we should hire an armed officer for every school bus? What if someone attacks a grocery store? Please stop the madness. Think about a couple of really good school counselors that can identify and help at risk individuals. Maybe even a town funded psychologist or two to help local people who are troubled. There should be some funding available from donations that won't require putting more financial stress on our local citizens.
Thomas Crafts February 14, 2013 at 12:30 PM
Hey Bruce, We have proved, once again, that money and test scores are not correlated. If they were, chicago and Washington DC would lead the nation in test scores.
Rebecca February 17, 2013 at 02:22 AM
I don't understand all the criticism of the Superintendent. In the aftermath of a horrible tragedy, now is not the time to judge, attack and blame! I do believe every community needs to evaluate not only their law enforcement needs, but also their mental health resources. You can't leave it to regional agencies or hospitals who don't have grasp of individual community issues.
Liam Heller February 18, 2013 at 12:12 AM
"I don’t think if we should be concerned with where the money’s coming from," said Mangiafico. "We should be concerned to do what’s correct." Well then let's hire the Coast guard, Air Force, the Marines and a few Navvy SEALS while we're at it too, if money's no object. Because that'll certainly stop creepy people from taking too much prescription medicine that causes homicidal tendencies and suicide. Let's genetically engineer a few mutant gorillas; keep them in chains at every front entrance of each school as guard dogs. Because a bunch of King Kongs will make sure mentally damaged people don't have the urge to commit violent actions in OTHER "gun free zones". Let's put as many armed people on school grounds, at the taxpayer's expense, that can possibly physically fit on school property. Let's put them shoulder to shoulder. Because that'll stop psychopaths like Adam Lanza from stealing their mothers guns after MURDERING THEM in their own home. Let's show the world that Newtown has no spine and that we're willing to alter our lives, as well as the lives of our children, by creating false illusions that an armed cop will save them from the boogieman. Let's put a Band-Aid on the problem, instead of addressing the BLATANT FACT, that this is a MENTAL HEALTH ISSUE and NOT a gun issue. *I* don't want *MY* kids growing up in a world that requires a police state, to make them feel safe. That's not Newtown. Never has been and NEVER should be!!!
Liam Heller February 18, 2013 at 12:24 AM
Exactly what part of this is "scary"? Civilians are offered, by Newtown's police force themselves, to take a course that trains them the same way the cops themselves are trained. If cops can protect our kids... What makes a trained civilian any different? I'm not crapping on any of our town cops when I say this, but I think we've all met at least one cop, somewhere throughout our lives, that really shouldn't be a cop, much less armed. If a civilian is trained to do ONE thing, as opposed to driving around in a car doing domestic violence calls, false alarms, writing tickets, etc... Then that kinda' makes the job a little easier, huh? Being trained to profile every person who comes to the door and monitor their walk, facial expressions, demeanor, nervous mannerisms, etc... Is not something cops are trained to do, unless they've received that special training on the side. But you think civilians are incapable of doing this. What were cops, prior to being cops?
Liam Heller February 18, 2013 at 12:35 AM
The federal restriction of bringing a weapon onto school ground (Gun Free Zone), is pretty much pointless, when you restrict honest people from bringing guns into schools, and the criminals/nutcases have absolutely no problem disobeying that law. It's also profoundly hypocritical, when you say that someone who holds a state carry permit; has gone through all the state and local background checks and paid the ridiculous fees in order to do so... Is somehow "dangerous" to the occupants of the school. Instead of putting cops in schools and telling the honest gun owners that they're not worthy... Why don't we instead switch our focus towards making sure everyone knows how to USE the weapon they plan on purchasing. Why don't we make sure that every man and woman who wishes to buy a handgun, rifle or shotgun, knows how to use it in every facet of life? At home, at school, at work, in church at the mall, etc, in case the scary unforeseen moment arises. We should all be trained the same way a cop would be, AND MORE! We should all have to prove that we know how to dismantle, clean and reassemble a handgun, rifle or shotgun. If we have to prove we know how to use an automobile, then we should prove the same thing with firearms. And let THAT be our "permit" for the state. We shouldn't need a permit anyway, because we already have one when we're born. It's called The Second Amendment.
Joe February 18, 2013 at 01:24 AM
Liam, you're dealing with ideologues who care only about their feelings and opinions. It's a waste of time to infuse fact into the discussion. Most (all?) don't even know what the laws in CT are relative to ownership, procurement and legality.
Liam Heller February 18, 2013 at 02:46 AM
I never see it as a waste of time, when I vocalize my views on the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Anyone else who tries to argue these documents, are the ones wasting time. NOTHING trumps the Constitution of the United States. And it's high time the citizens of this country, our elected officials, political representatives AND our President of the United States, finally recognize that as well. On a side note... Those same people should be aware that their leader is up for impeachment proceedings, for not following his oath of office... http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/12/obama-impeachment-poll_n_2669820.html http://larouchepac.com/node/25485
taxpayer February 18, 2013 at 04:09 AM
Finally! Someone who actually has made some common sense here. Thank you!
taxpayer February 18, 2013 at 04:11 AM
Another good comment. I wish folks would focus on the real issue of mental health and helping people, especially our youth, get the help they need rather than these ridiculous emotional pleas for more money for solutions that make NO SENSE and do not actually address the real issue at hand.
Joe February 18, 2013 at 07:15 PM
Hey Liam, I think I summarized my point without clarity. I don't mean it's a waste of time to push for Constitutional values. I do it everyday. What I meant was, it's a waste of time to do it here. Most of these folks are lazy sheep who regurgitate what the media has fed them. Closed-minded simps. Be well!
Liam Heller February 18, 2013 at 09:06 PM
Oh, no, I understood you clearly. I got your point, that you and I are on the same page. I was just extending on my stance on how solid *I* am on Constitutional values. I understand how futile it sometimes is, to talk to the "brick walls" who refuse to listen to two centuries of written law and are incapable of understanding the original intentions of what Americas founding fathers had in mind when they wrote that law. Many who chastise the Constitution, are unaware that THEY themselves are indeed part of the problem, that inevitably provides a tyrannical government with all the provisions they need, in order to seize the power they've been denied by that Constitutional law. It's overwhelmingly apparent, that we have far too many adults in America, who just don't realize that the Constitution and the Bill of Rights aren't our governments set of laws that tell us what WE can or can't do... They need to recognize that the Constitution and Bill of Rights are our DEFENSE against our government, that prevents them from taking too much control over us. And that's something that the last few government administrations have been twisting for their own gain, more and more. Right now, it's worse than it's ever been. And this town seems to be willing to fall directly in line with that initiative. We can't do this. We just can't do this. It starts a process where WE, as a people, lose more and more control over our own lives.
JED February 23, 2013 at 11:46 PM
SH DAD: (Eye roll) Then us good guys don't need guns, since we're only protecting ourselves from people, and not, you know, guns.
JED February 24, 2013 at 12:09 AM
Playing violin....... The problem is multi faceted. Background checks at gun shows will definitely help. But if you want to stop the slaughter, you stop the manufacturers.
dave February 27, 2013 at 02:39 AM
Any decision the town makes to provide safety officers for some kids, and not others, will leave the others completely exposed, and would be destructive and divisive….the media would have a field day with such a controversial decision. From a financial perspective, any decision to leave Newtown's private schools unprotected, while the public schools get the protection, will result in significant reduction in the private schools’ enrollment. This means an increase in enrollment at the public schools, resulting in an increase to the education budget. So why not just fund the SRO’s for the private schools in the first place, and avoid the legal challenges, the media circus, and dividing a town that really needs to stay unified? Finally, private School parents accept the fact that they have to pay the town taxes to fund public schools services that they do not consume. The least the town can do is provide the same safety and protective services for our kids, as they provide for the kids who’s education we subsidize.
dave February 27, 2013 at 02:46 AM
I tend to agree with this...
Wesley M. Colyer February 28, 2013 at 02:06 AM
Can anyone tell me what guns were left in the trunk (car) and what guns were used in the school... Thank You.... Wesley M. Colyer, Cincinnati, OH. Email...wescolyer@gmail.com
Liam Heller February 28, 2013 at 04:01 AM
Wesley ~ http://digitaljournal.com/article/340113 You can't argue with that.
Eric Poupon February 28, 2013 at 11:36 AM
@Wesley: they found a bushmaster and two handguns in the school and a shotgun in the trunk of the car. The bushmaster was used for all of the shooting. I believe this had been confirmed in several news stories at this point
Boggs February 28, 2013 at 01:51 PM
the right-wing press and gun nuts continue spreading lies about the ar-15 not be used in the massacre, disgusting! http://www.infowars.com/sandy-hook-ar-15-hoax-still-no-school-surveillance-footage-released/
Joe February 28, 2013 at 02:21 PM
Boggs, the 'article' is 6 weeks old and been disproven over and over again. You say 'continue to' then post a story from 6 weeks ago....kinda takes away your credibility. Did it occur to you to click on Liam's link to see the chronology posted within? Infowars is hardly a news source and anybody can easily point to similar 'sources' on the other side of the spectrum. You are a typical anti-gun activist pointing to a fringe to 'prove' gun advocates are radical when in fact, 99.999% of us are normal responsible ordinary law-abiding neighbors of yours.
Donald Borsch Jr. February 28, 2013 at 02:35 PM
Boogs, "Infowars"? Really? LOL! You might as well grab an article from The National Enquirer saying that Bigfoot has been mating with human women and now the children thereof are running rampant through our streets. Fail.
Liam Heller February 28, 2013 at 05:17 PM
There's an investigative journalist named Ben Swann, who's out of Cincinnati, who is without a doubt, the single most trustworthy person out there right now who doesn't just "copy & paste" the same news reports that Associated Press, CNN, Fox News, etc are all sharing with one another. He has a segment on their local news channel that's called "Reality Check". He doesn't just give you a report/outcome that you've never heard from another station... He explains, in very precise detail, each and every event that's available and walks you through the ENTIRE story, step-by-step, to give you the truth in the topic and not some warped, agenda filled, biased report. He'll explain who originated a proposal; who backed them up; who helped write the bill; who voted on it and WHY each person was for or against it. He'll go to the beginning of the matter, pry it open and show you everything he knows, WITHOUT ever encouraging you to do anything except think for yourself. The station he works for, piggybacks off of a Fox wavelength, but he's not under the corporate shadow of Rupert Murdoch's neoconservative agenda. He often denounces Fox News, calling them liars, hypocrites and untrustworthy in their news reporting. He craps on Fox News and is NOT "one of them".
Liam Heller February 28, 2013 at 05:17 PM
Although he hasn't gotten to a direct investigation on the shooting, he has done a story to quell some of the conspiracy theories that have gone into outer space over it. His conclusion was that NO ONE can properly cover the Sandy Hook shooting, without the official information, that has yet to be provided. Anyone who purposely chooses to listen to one news source, exclusively, and refuses to listen to alternatives, is just as ignorant and stubborn as someone who keeps referring back to that one friend of theirs who, without fail, will ALWAYS tell you, "you look great in those jeans!" Alex Jones is s smart guy, He's not stupid. But he's no less of a showman than Bill O'Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, Donald Trump, Piers Morgan, Sean Hannity, Morton Downey Jr (remember him?), Dianne Feinstein, etc. They all have agendas and all fill a need to whatever crowd that needs them. Calm down... Take a step back... And think.

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