News Column

New Haven Schools Want to Hire 4 to 5 Cops

Jan 15, 2013

Brian McCready

Superintendent of Schools Elizabeth Feser said Monday she wants to hire four or five school resource officers in response to the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

"Clearly, Sandy Hook is a driver" behind her request for armed uniformed police to patrol the city's 13 schools.

Police Chief Keith Mello said he supports this, and Mayor Ben Blake said "at first blush," he's very interested in pursuing the idea.

Blake said he'd first seek federal money to pay for the positions. He said if aid is not available, there needs to be discussion about going to the city budget.

Feser said she envisions one police officer for the city's eight elementary schools, two positions for the three middle schools, and one stationed at both high schools. She said police resource officers become part of the school community. "I told (Blake and Mello) that I really want it."

Mello said the officers serve as a "valuable deterrent to any potential threat to the safety of our children, and they are able to respond or mitigate any incident that may occur in our schools."

"I see (them) not just as law enforcement officers, but as mentors to our students, as a resource for our parents and as partners to our school administrators and teachers," Mello said.

In speaking with Feser and Blake, he said, it's clear both are "very committed to keeping our children safe."

The school system also is replacing locks for all classrooms to ensure teachers can lock doors from the inside. This was done at five schools prior to the Newtown tragedy, but Feser said Monday she is ordering the remaining schools' locks upgraded now. "All the schools will be done by the end of the year," she said.

Other security enhancements include more surveillance cameras. Police are now able to monitor each school from headquarters. The schools will be adding panic buttons so administrators can press a button and police will be directly notified of an emergency.

Feser said she'd like a key card system for staff to gain entry to the schools. She thinks this will help keep other people out.

The security upgrades are estimated to cost $87,162. Hiring four to five resource officers could cost another $200,000.

Blake said the school system is about to embark on a schools security audit.

"We are all working hand-in-hand to beef up security," he said.

Source: (c)2013 the New Haven Register (New Haven, Conn.). Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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